Officials stumped by Va. cougar sightings

Feb. 18, 2010 at 4:47 PM   |   Comments

NORFOLK, Va., Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Virginia wildlife officials said they are struggling to make sense of recent mountain lion sightings at the southern end of the state's Eastern Shore.

Glen Askins, a regional wildlife manager with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said at least three people reported seeing a cougar in late December and early January, but mountain lions have been extinct in the area for more than a century, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported Thursday.

"None of it makes any sense," Askins, a regional wildlife manager with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "There hasn't been a mountain lion in that part of the world in well over 100 years."

Askins conceded a few mountain lions had been captured in Virginia in recent decades, but those were believed to be exotic pets that later were set free.

However, Ernie Coalter is sure the animal he saw near his home outside Capeville Dec. 30 and again two weeks later while driving with his wife was a mountain lion.

Randall Treadwell of Virginia Beach said he has also spotted a cougar twice, once in late December and again in late January.

"I'd never rule it out," Askins said of the possibility of a mountain lion presence in the area. "But you've got to understand. I've been chasing mountain lion reports for nearly 26 years, and I have yet to find any physical evidence that they still exist in the wild in Virginia. No bodies. No fresh kills. No hair. No scat. Nothing."

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