I live in a wooded area outside of Seattle, and it’s fairly common to see some of the local fauna pass through, particularly deer, coyote, and the occasional bobcat. However, it was quite a shock when I drove down our street on Monday and came across a wild cat that is not listed among the members of the feline family native to North America. At the time, I didn’t know what it was, but I was able to scare it off by blasting the car horn and aiming the car toward it (I just wanted to scare it), finally causing it to jump into the woods as I opened the door and shouted at it. It was disconcerting that a wild cat had been among the houses in the middle of the day and that it didn’t quickly scare off, but moreover, I was puzzled by what nature of animal I had seen. And yet…I had seen this type of animal before, but what was it? I expanded my search of the Internet from “wild cats North America” to “wild cats of the world” and perused the myriad of photos available, and found my animal: a caracal, a feline native to parts of the Middle East and Africa.
I’ve found that reporting a free-roaming exotic cat is not very easy. Phone conversations have gone something like this—
“I’d like to report a wild cat in my neighborhood.”
“I’m sorry. We have no way of tracking lost cats.”
“No, I mean an exotic wild cat—a predator that is native to the African savannah and can weigh 25-40 lbs. (11-18 kilograms).”
“It’s not a cougar, not a lynx and not a bobcat, but it’s about the size of a lynx; it’s a caracal. I looked it up on Wikipedia.”
“Oh… Call fish and wildlife.”
I was bounced back and forth between county animal control and the state fish and wildlife department a bit, and finally ended-up back at animal control, leaving a message for the field operations people.
It must be someone’s cat, and I hope it doesn’t get hurt, but I also hope that no one, or their pet, doesn’t also get hurt. It certainly has me looking over my shoulder when I take my son to the bus stop in the early morning hours.
Here kitty, kitty…