Possible Cougar Sightings in Fairfax County — good news — they eat deer!

News from the airwaves

 

Precautions Being Taken…no, not at night clubs and bars…

Alexandria, Va. (Sept. 11, 2014) — Over the past 48 hours, Fairfax County Animal Control has received two reports of early-morning sightings of a large cat, possibly a cougar, near Riverside Elementary School on Old Mount Vernon Road in Alexandria. Animal Control Officers searched the area of the reported sightings but found no evidence confirming the presence of the animal.

The cat was described sand or orange color and was estimated to be the size of a large dog with a tail equal to the length of its body.

The Police Department’s Wildlife Management Specialist is working with Animal Control to set up wildlife cameras around the area and animal control officers will be patrolling the area tonight and early tomorrow morning, in case the animal is still in the area.

Teachers and parents at this school have been made aware and are taking precautions to ensure that children are kept safe.
If you see this animal, do not approach it. (If you really need to be told this, go ahead…its okay…its just a big cute kitty cat…with fangs and claws…) 
Get to a safe location and call the police non-emergency number at 703-691-2131. An animal control officer will be dispatched.

eastern cougar (=puma) (Puma (=Felis) concolor cougar)

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

The total length of this species is 5-9 feet (cylindrical tail 2-3 feet) and it weighs from 100-200 pounds. They are dark reddish-or yellowish-brown dorsally, lighter ventrally, the tail tip is dark, and the fur is short, soft and unspotted. Since 1970, 121 sightings have been identified as possible mountain lions, but have not been officially confirmed. Most sightings occur in Shenandoah National Park and in Bedford, Amherst and Nelson County region. There is no fixed breeding season with one litter per 2-3 years with an average of 2-4 kittens being born. The young remain with their mother for 1-2 years. They may rear their kittens in a cave, a rock fissure or in a thicket. The home range of the female is 5-20 square miles, with 25 square miles or more for the male. They mark parts of their territories, such as trails, high ridges and crossings with scrapes, scratch hills, topped with urine or feces as visual or olfactory warnings. Their longevity in captivity is 12-18 years.

Distribution

There have been unconfirmed sightings in Albemarle, Alleghany, Amherst, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Botetourt, Bland, Brunswick, Craig, Fauquier, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Grayson, Highland, Louisa, Nelson, Orange, Page, Rappahannock, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Suffolk, Madison, and Warren counties. This species has been known to adjust to a wide range of habitats, from rugged mountains and hardwood forests to swamps. They often rest in caves, wet or dry not specified. Large blocks of uninhabited forest are beneficial.

Foods

Hoofed mammals, especially deer are the preferred food. They will secondarily resort to smaller wild mammals, birds, fish and arthropods. It will kill one animal at a time, and return to the hidden remains until it is eaten, but generally will not eat spoiled meat. It will generally stalk prey from on the ground, and the adult averages approximately 1 deer or the equivalent weight per week. They may also eat grasses and berries although they probably do not provide nutritional value but rather serve a medicinal purpose.

More Information

For more information, please visit the Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service (direct link to species booklet).

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