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Sep 11, 2012 11:38 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

DEC Investigates Reports Of 'Panther-Like' Animal In East Hampton

Sep 11, 2012 5:57 PM

New York State conservation officers were investigating reports that a “panther-like” animal was on the loose in East Hampton this week.

According to Bill Fonda, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Conservation, two officers responded to a call from the East Hampton Town Police Department for assistance in investigating a reported sighting of the animal at a farm on Spring Close Lane off Spring Close Highway.

Mr. Fonda said Matthew Lester reported that when he drove onto the property to do some work at about 11 a.m. on Sunday, he “observed a grayish, cat-looking creature about five feet long and two feet high at the shoulder with a long, striped tail, eating some composted vegetables and meat scraps.”

“The animal fled quickly into the brush upon Lester’s arrival in his truck,” Mr. Fonda said.

The conservation officers saw tracks in the area, took photos of them and forwarded them to DEC wildlife staff to review. “They did not find any other evidence of a large cat in the area, such as hair,” Mr. Fonda said.

An East Hampton Town Police report indicated that a police officer joined the DEC officers in searching the area at about noon on Sunday to no avail. That report described the animal as “a large black, possibly dark gray cat with a white striped tail about five and a half feet long” and said it was eating old vegetables at the edge of the farm field.

According to Mr. Fonda, there is a compost pile of rotting vegetables that attracts many kinds of animals to the area, which is leased by Lester Farms and owned by Mike Bistrian. “We investigated the entire property and surrounding woods,” Mr. Fonda wrote in an email. He said the officers intend to set up a “trail camera” where Mr. Lester saw the animal. The police report said the DEC planned to set a bait trap the following day.

To date, Mr. Fonda emphasized, there has not been “sufficient evidence of a cougar, panther, jaguar or similar exotic cat in the area.” The DEC has previously had reports of big cats being loose, according to Mr. Fonda. “Generally they don’t turn out to be the case,” he said.

Curtis O’Brien of Skimhampton Road said on Monday that two or three of his neighbors in the Skimhampton-Further Lane area had told him over the weekend that they saw “something black, 5 to 6 feet in length, hunting the deer pack.”

In an email, he described it as “supposedly … some form of South American jaguar.”

The DEC conducted a data search to see if anyone in the area had a license, say, for educational purposes, to possess a big wildcat, but came up empty. “There’s nobody who’s licensed to possess a jaguar in Suffolk County,” Mr. Fonda said Monday, adding that that did not mean someone might not have a large cat that was not licensed.

“Also, when we did the database search yesterday, we did search for all cats, not just jaguars, and nothing came up in the forks area of Long Island,” he added on Tuesday.

Mr. O’Brien has a chow-collie mix that he takes into his yard without a leash. The dog, which weighs about 40 pounds, can be territorial, he said, explaining that he does not want it to chase or provoke the larger animal.

“We’re just kind of being very cautious right now,” Mr. O’Brien said.

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Well, it ain't April 1st...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 11, 12 2:39 PM
Ha, that's what I was thinking. Perhaps someone had an exotic animal that either got loose or was let loose? Git yer guns ready folks.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Sep 11, 12 2:47 PM
Panthers eat meat and fish. No plants.So that rules out a panther if the animal in question was seen eating composted vegetables.

If there is a dangerous exotic animal on the loose why is this article locked ? Does a disservice to the public at large.
By Hobie58148 (15), East Hampton on Sep 11, 12 3:35 PM
The article says composted vegetables and Meat Scraps .
By AndersEn (174), Southampton on Sep 18, 12 1:42 PM
a vegetarian panther in the hamptons. can't make this stuff up.
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Sep 11, 12 5:15 PM
3 members liked this comment
Well, number one Jaguars have rosettas, not stripes so count them out.

The striped tail and a grey or black color says to me maybe someone may have lost a lynx.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 11, 12 6:04 PM
Not the black panters....

Another LI newspaper is reporting that the tracks (which they have pictured) are not from a large cat. Likely culprit? Fox.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 11, 12 6:43 PM
Z you know lynx are not allowed here!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 11, 12 6:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Took a peek at the print over on the Patch.

Looks alot like a lynx at a trot to me, but I could be wrong...
Sep 11, 12 7:13 PM appended by Mr. Z
Or, maybe an ocelot. The description of the tail would be consistent.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 11, 12 7:13 PM
In the photo with the tape measure on the left, the paw print appears to be about 2 1/2" in length, not including what appear to be possible claw marks in front of the front pad marks. I would post a link to this but . . .

This seems small for a five-foot long animal? TBD
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 11, 12 7:25 PM
Well, if they are going head to tail, an ocelot can grow to be at least three feet long. Don't forget the marked propensity of humans to exaggerate upon what they fear. The ocelot has rosette markings similar to a jaguar, and the description of the tail is a spot on match. My bet is exotic pet on the loose, and my money is on an ocelot per the physical description, and maybe the tracks are of an unusually large male. House kept, and well fed they may grow a bit larger than in the wild, not sure ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 11, 12 7:48 PM
.and there was a baby rattle snake discovered over at national golf links also .. they arent indigenous to long island, but sure is possible that someone brought one here
By david h (405), southampton on Sep 11, 12 6:30 PM
why are any of these articles locked when u can pick up the press for free..i like tha press..unlock please...and did they go looking for a cage anywhere near that property where there several old shacks and barn type buildings?
By gansetteer (125), East Hampton on Sep 11, 12 6:47 PM
I've seen plenty of cougars in in east Hampton but never a panther.
By C Law (354), Water Mill on Sep 11, 12 6:48 PM
3 members liked this comment
Where @? Beaumarchaise?!
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 11, 12 8:23 PM
There *is* a leopard on your roof and it's my leopard and I have to get it and to get it I have to sing.
By bridgewoodsmom (14), bridgehampton on Sep 11, 12 7:43 PM
How about a Bobcat. There was one roaming around East Quogue a few years back.
By theprogram (37), east quogue on Sep 11, 12 8:35 PM
A member of the lynx family, and some do have spots that could be mistaken for rosettas. Yeah, I'd say that's also a likely possiblity.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 11, 12 8:56 PM
Maybe it was a stray Bengal cat. They can grow quite large but they are pets.
By btdt (449), water mill on Sep 12, 12 11:36 AM
What does a 250 lb canary say? ( in DEEP voice ) Here Kitty, Kitty !
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Sep 12, 12 2:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
Careful! Big cat scratch the hell out of ya
By loading... (601), quiogue on Sep 12, 12 8:04 PM