Mountain lion reported in Southeastern neighborhood of D.C.

The cats will play while the mice are away (a lame reference to the government shutdown occurring right now.) This story is very incomplete.

Mountain lion sighting rumored in SE D.C. – The Washington Post.

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.”

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.

According to this report, two callers to 911 reported the animal Wednesday night.

Then we have this strange “confirmation”;

Mountain lion, large numbers of deer spotted in DC |

DC Animal Control officials have confirmed that a mountain lion was seen in Northeast near the new Costco.

No additional information was available about why they confirmed it and what evidence was eventually found. But this article also includes reports of many deer herds moving through the Penn Branch area. Odd. And sure to spark more sightings and possibly a panic.

A similar sighting was reported back in 2011 at nearly the same time of the year. That incident prompted creation of a DC Mountain Lion twitter account. I wonder if that will become active again.

We’ll keep tabs on this story.

UPDATE: (4-Oct-2013) No sign of a cat. Here is an article to update the search.

Scott Giacoppo, vice president of external affairs for the Humane Society, which serves as the District’s animal control agency, said that his workers have investigated calls about mountain lion sightings from two other locations in the District since Wednesday evening. And he wasn’t ruling anything out.

“I am not going to say it’s not a mountain lion,” Giacoppo said.

Still, his crews could find no signs of a mountain lion. No tracks. No droppings. No carcasses of small animals recently consumed. Giacoppo said that over the previous three years — “every October” — his office has looked into sightings of mountain lions in the District. Giacoppo suspects that what people are really seeing are deer or possibly coyotes.

  2 comments for “Mountain lion reported in Southeastern neighborhood of D.C.

  1. KT
    October 3, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    This would be a lot more believable if there were known populations of these animals anywhere near by. If that were the case seeing them could be accounted for by the dispersal of offspring. For example, black bears occasionally wander into suburban and even urban areas and get into trouble. I don’t necessarily think it’s surprising that no one gets a photo in a completely random and surprise encounter in these cases. There were a lot more bear sightings than there was physical evidence when a black bear wandered though our neighborhood and was shot dead by police in a neighboring community. Without a doubt a lot of those sightings were the product of people’s imaginations after hearing about the bear, but the body proved that not all of them were. He also tossed a trash can or two and was photographed.

    A genuine wild cat would not be habituated to the presence of human beings. We had a family of foxes that raised a litter of kits under my neighbors shed this summer and although the male wasn’t particularly uncomfortable walking around during the day time, It was always a bit of a shock when he dashed across the yard or down the street. I never got a photo because he was always long gone by the time my phone was out of my pocket. I can only assume a wild mountain lion would be less habituated. I’d be much less skeptical of this if there was evidence of a viable population somewhere nearby.

    If this animal were an escaped captive, I’d not only expect him to be habituated to humans, I’d expect him to be dangerous. Unless keepers take extraordinary precautions, captive animals associate humans with food. Captive reared animals also the parental instruction that they would be given in the wild about what and how to hunt. Cats are born with instinctive hunting behaviors, but these animals spend 1.5 – 2 years with their mother learning how to survive in their habitat. I can help but think there would be a lot of sightings and other evidence of an animal this large trying to figure out how to make a living in unfamiliar surroundings. Even a wild caught captive would be at least a little habituated and hungry in unfamiliar surroundings.

  2. Rand
    October 3, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    It’s not unhead of for mountain lions to stray dramatic distances from their home turf. For example the mountain lion which got hit by a car in Connecticut…

    So, although its unlikely to be a “permanent resident” of the DC area, it is possible that one wandered in from far away.

    It’s also possible (since there are no photos) that it could instead be a bobcat. Those are much more common in the east.

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