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Wild Animals/Possible large cat sighting


Hi, Jonathan:

This morning my wife and I found some large tracks on our property near Moorefield, WV.  This evening, while cutting grass (around 5:30PM), I turned the mower around just in time to see a large animal jump from the road into the woods on my property.  As I have always had cats around, I am pretty familiar with the general body shape of cats vs. dogs.  This was no dog, nor was it a deer.  

It was dark (possibly a reddish), long, lean and muscular.  It had a long tail that was extended in an arc shape behind it as it jumped.  I could see it from the shoulders to the tip of the tail as it jumped.  The jumping motion was also catlike, almost like a pounce as it bounded into the woods.  

I would estimate the distance from me to the animal was less than 300 feet.  It was beyond the clearing, which gave me a good perspective, and it was still daylight.  Although the animal was stretched out in mid-leap, I would estimate that the tip of the tail was near the center of the road, while it's head was already obscured in the weeds at the side of the road (this is a narrow dirt road).  Approximately 6 - 8' in length.  Height was approximately 2.5', but height is hard to estimate due to the leaping posture.

I have a 6 year old daughter, and now fear this thing could attack her, assuming she is small prey.  Who can I contact regarding this sighting?  Animal control in this area is pretty much "if you catch it and bring it to us, we'll deal with it."  I'm not about to try that.

Thanks in advance,
Paul Vinoski

Hallo Paul

Thank you for your question and for giving me measurements. I also wish to thank the authors of websites I used.

It definitely looks as if you saw a large cat and the most likely candidate is a puma (also called the cougar, mountain lion and about 40 other names). and say that the puma has become extinct in West Virginia. says that pumas steadily declined in numbers, as it preyed on livestock, suffered a fall in the deer population and lost habitat, due to logging operations, road building and settlements. The puma was declared extinct in West Virginia in 1924. There have been many unconfirmed reports, but the website says there is no evidence to verify that pumas still exist in West Virginia.

Craig W. Stihler ( gives more details about pumas in West Virginia. Two western pumas were released in Pocahontas County in 1976.,, and other websites have details about big cat sightings in West Virginia. shows a bobcat.

I can see no reason why a puma cannot move across state boundaries. You can contact the Eastern Puma Research Network via and I hope that you will get smeone to help you confirm your sighting.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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