The Washington Post

Mountain lion sighting rumored in SE D.C.

Unproven reports of a mountain lion sighting in Southeast Washington spread across a neighborhood listserv, city officials’ e-mails and Twitter late Wednesday night.

The Twitter account for Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement tweeted a warning at 7:52 p.m. for the Penn Branch area of Southeast: “DANGER — PUBLIC SAFETY ALERT MOUNTAIN LION SPOTTED 3600 BLOCK OF HIGHWOOD DR SE.”

However, after repeated phone calls, it appeared that on-duty officials from D.C. police, Emergency Management, city Animal Control and the Washington Humane Society who were called Wednesday night had no personal knowledge of any such sightings.

A D.C. police spokesman said officials received calls from media outlets earlier Wednesday asking about the possible presence of a mountain lion, but police had not confirmed any sightings by 11 p.m.

The predators are known for stalking and killing deer, moose and even cows -- and they live in habitats from northern Canada to South America, as well as in many parts of the United States. The neighborhood where the wild cat was allegedly seen in Southeast is near Fort Dupont Park, and has large undeveloped tracts of land. Deer are known to live in the area.

An e-mail apparently from a community member was forwarded to a D.C. council member and police officials, warning neighbors to stay indoors. The e-mail claimed that a mountain lion had been spotted inback of a neighbors’ home. The message was then forwarded on to several other city officials.

Emails for response were not immediately returned late Wednesday night by the city’s emergency management agency.

Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.

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