Authorities Take Photos Of Elusive Large Cat

By Martin Weil and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 3, 2008

Authorities have apparently tracked down the animal that prompted reports of cougar sightings at the University of Maryland. Or at least, they came close.

They managed to snap pictures Friday of an unidentified feline that, while not quite a cougar, seemed far larger than a standard house cat.

The Department of Public Safety at the College Park campus said it got surveillance camera pictures of a "large feline" at the edge of a wooded area where what was believed to be a cougar had been reported. In addition, the department said, a university police officer got to see the big cat close up.

The verdict, after consulting with the state Department of Natural Resources, was no cougar.

In its size and markings, the safety department said, the mystery cat appeared to be consistent with the Savannah cat, which it described as a hybrid of a domestic short hair and a larger African feline, known as a Serval.

According to a statement from the safety department, Savannahs can weigh as much as 35 pounds, and can be much bigger than house cats. Savannahs, the department said, have been called the Great Danes of the cat world.

As of last night, the Savannah, if that is truly what it is, remained at large.

It was not immediately known how it came to be in the area where reports of cougar sightings Thursday created a summertime stir on campus.

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