An­other sight­ing re­ported

Cou­ple claims to have close en­counter with large black cat near Deer Lake air­port

The Western Star - - Front Page - BY GARY KEAN THE WESTERN STAR

Gary An­der­son was look­ing for­ward to com­ing back home to see some sights he hadn’t seen in a long time.

What he’ll likely re­mem­ber most about his lat­est visit was see­ing some­thing he had never ex­pected to wit­ness in his life.

An­der­son and his wife, Mar­garet, had been vis­it­ing the Mead­ows and Gil­lams area of the Bay of Islands and re­turned back to On­tario Thurs­day morn­ing. As they turned off the Trans-Canada High­way into the Deer Lake Re­gional Air­port ac­cess road at around 8:45 a.m., Mar­garet spied some­thing on the side of the road about 50 me­tres ahead.

She told him it must be the large black, pan­ther-like cat they had heard about in the lo­cal news dur­ing their visit home.

“It was just ly­ing there, just in­side the guardrail,” An­der­son told The Western Star from Hal­i­fax, where the cou­ple were switch­ing planes on their jour­ney home later Thurs­day.

An­der­son, who had driven just past the an­i­mal, said he backed up to get a photo of it. Be­fore he could get the shot, though, a car com­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion passed them and star­tled the an­i­mal.

“It just jumped up and took off into the bushes,” said An­der­son, who was un­able to get any im­ages of the beast.

An­der­son said the cat was about the size of a Ger­man shep­herd dog, was pure black and had a long tail.

Re­mem­ber­ing the pub­lic cau­tions is­sued a week ear­lier, he im­me­di­ately re­ported what he saw to air­port se­cu­rity. The air­port then no­ti­fied the Town of Deer Lake, which posted a warn­ing on its Face­book site for peo­ple to be aware of a pos­si­ble wild cat sight­ing in the area.

It was the sec­ond such warn­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity felt com­pelled to make in the last week af­ter two women re­ported see­ing a sim­i­lar an­i­mal while walk­ing in the Glide Brook Road area Oct. 1.

Da­mon Clarke, the Town of Deer Lake’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer and town plan­ner, is the per­son who posted both pub­lic ad­vi­sories.

He said the town had to think long and hard about mak­ing such an alarm­ing pub­lic state­ment with­out any solid phys­i­cal ev­i­dence to sup­port the claims, but even­tu­ally de­cided to err on the side of cau­tion.

“We were very wary of putting this out there be­cause of the re­ac­tion it might get,” said Clarke. “We ex­pected a fair bit of ridicule from peo­ple who didn’t think there was any truth to what was be­ing re­ported and we saw that re­ac­tion. But, we thought pub­lic safety may be a big­ger is­sue.”

There is a pop­u­lar walk­ing trail that cour­ses through the woods between the air­port and Route 430. Clarke said, if there is a large wild cat in the area, peo­ple us­ing this trail need to be aware.

Other than the lynx, there are no big wild cats na­tive to the is­land of New­found­land. That has not stopped mul­ti­ple peo­ple from re­port­ing sight­ings of large an­i­mals that re­sem­ble black pan­thers or brown­ish cougars in re­cent years.

As in pre­vi­ous re­ports of large wild cats be­ing re­ported, the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Land Re­sources was no­ti­fied and was look­ing into Thurs­day’s re­port. As of dead­line Thurs­day, the depart­ment had no re­sponse to its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the lat­est re­port.

123RF STOCK PHOTO

There was an­other re­ported sight­ing of a large black cat in Deer Lake Thurs­day morn­ing.

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