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  •  [D] Talk about cougar sightings
  •   Virginia's Elusive Cougar Has Vanished

    Cougar Photo
    Startled Virginians reported seeing a cougar like this one.
    (By Garvey Winegar)
    By John P. Martin
    Washingtonpost.com Writer
    Tuesday, June 23, 1998; 6 p.m. EDT

    Missing: One cougar, brown.
    Last seen: Everywhere in Northern Virginia.
    Answers to: "What was that?"

    After climbing the conversation charts for weeks, the cougar that had Fairfax County abuzz has disappeared.

    "I think it's made its way back home," said Earl Hodnett, the county wildlife biologist who has tried to track the cat since late April.

    Of course, Hodnett has no idea where "home" is. He was convinced the cougar was a wayward illegal pet. Wild cougars vanished in Northern Virginia years ago.

    This one appeared in April. Hodnett said the last credible sighting came 10 days ago. He's sure the cat has moved on.

    Cougar spottings map
    Reported cougar sightings as of June 7.
    (By Mark Hill)
    There were no farewells, final meals or forwarding addresses. Just another X-file.

    And some memories. He roamed the suburbs for weeks, along trails, in back yards, office parks, even near the Beltway. He was elusive, shadowy, never seen for more than a few seconds.

    But seen often, generating hundreds of reportings countywide, about 50 of which Hodnett deemed credible. This was a cat about town, one who covered his tracks, a panther who drew the press but avoided the paparazzi.

    Maybe the attention was too much. Maybe he has a summer place.

    The calls dropped sharply last week, Hodnett said happily. He was hired this year to develop a deer management plan, not to manage mountain lion mania.

    The last few callers reported finding mysterious track marks, which the biologist quickly debunked.

    "They've all been dogs," Hodnett said.

    Indeed.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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