People reporting big wild cat in Ohio

Dec. 7, 2011 at 4:53 PM

LISB ON, Ohio, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Authorities in eastern Ohio say they have received a spate of phone calls in recent days about what appeared to be a big golden-haired wild cat roaming freely.

The most recent sighting was by a dispatcher for the Columbiana County Sheriff's Office, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Her report Monday was the fifth from the Butler-Perry area since last Wednesday.

"I interviewed the dispatcher because she physically had to stop her vehicle from hitting it," Perry Police Chief Michael S. Emigh said. "It was just walking."

But investigators say there is a lack of hard evidence about the beast. No one has gotten a photograph or found tracks or scat.

The sightings also come at a time when Ohioans are exotic-animal conscious. Two months ago, a man who kept bears, tigers, lions and other exotic animals on his Zanesville farm, released them before killing himself.

Investigators say the mystery beast in Columbiana County, which is on the border with Pennsylvania, could be an escaped African lion or mountain lion. None have been reported missing, but under Ohio's current lax regulations, owners do not have to report fugitives.

It could also be a bobcat or a pet cat or dog.

"Some of these cats look like they're on steroids," Jamey Graham of the state Division of Wildlife said Wednesday.

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