Friday, August 11, 2000

Reports of mystery big cat have suburban Akron spooked

The Associated Press

        AKRON, Ohio — Trappers in suburban Akron have been looking for a mysterious big cat sighted repeatedly in back yards, but a lack of hard evidence has some people wondering if they're chasing a furry Loch Ness monster.

        Rick Finney, a nuisance wildlife control officer, and three other state-licensed workers have joined the search for what has been reported as a large catlike animal with a long tail roaming in Springfield Township, just southeast of Akron.

        Police began fielding reports last week of sightings from residents in a 1-by-11/2-mile area.

        Trappers were brought in after two Akron police officers said that on July 31 they spotted a large cat with glowing green eyes. A photo, tracks or sighting by a police officer was needed before licensed wildlife officers could assist, police said.

        Mr. Finney said “no absolute, hard sign” of what could be a mountain or African lion has been found.

        “I have found no marks, hair, kills,” he said Thursday. “Nothing that would indicate there's anything out there that's abnormal. I'm just going on descriptions that are consistent with it being a large cat.”

        Mr. Finney is baffled that no pet food or pets have disappeared but said he is confident the unidentified animal is tame and came from a domestic setting.

        No one has reported missing a mountain lion or similar animal, but people who live outside the Akron area and are licensed own ers of such animals will be questioned, Springfield Township Police Sgt. Garry Moneypenny said.

        Cats instinctively hide, and a large cat, such as a lion, could roam for days at a time without being seen, Mr. Finney said.

        Still, some residents are skeptical that a big cat is out there.

        “I live next to the woods where it's supposedly been seen, and I haven't seen anything, and neither have my neighbors,” Bill Burch said. “One woman said it came up to her bedroom window, and another said it ran out in front of her car. But it seems funny that it's not around.”

        Mr. Finney said he doesn't think the sightings are a hoax.

        “People's imaginations can run wild, but there's definitely a problem here that we have to solve,” he said.


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