Authorities Search for Cougar Reportedly Seen in Woods

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 1, 2008

The University of Maryland and the state Department of Natural Resources searched the College Park campus yesterday in response to reports that a cougar might have been prowling a wooded area.

What appeared to be a large cat was spotted about 6 a.m. near University Boulevard, said Capt. John Brandt, a spokesman for the university's Department of Public Safety. By late afternoon, the animal had been spotted by witnesses several times but had not been caught on camera or seen by police.

The animal was described as light tan and tawny brown, about four feet long with a four-foot tail and weighing about 50 pounds, Brandt said. The size seemed to indicate that the animal was a cougar, which is not native to Maryland. Experts say cougars have not lived wild in the area since the mid-1800s.

Glenn Therres, associate director for wildlife and heritage service with the Department of Natural Resources, said no zoo in the area had reported any escaped cats. Keeping a cougar or any potentially dangerous cat such as a lion or tiger is illegal in Maryland, Therres said.

"We get 20, 30 reports of cougars in the state of Maryland each year," Therres said. "We have yet to be able to confirm any cougar [sighting]."

Brandt said that although the animal seen yesterday had not shown aggressive tendencies, it should not be approached.

"We're obviously concerned," Brandt said. "We're going to be looking hard, because we don't know what the threat is."

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