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Wildlife and Urban Indiana

Recent sightings of a cougar in and around Terre Haute have police on the lookout and citizens a little fearful. While police originally thought the situation to be a hoax, they’re starting to take steps to try and catch the large cat, whether it’s real or not.

There are now large baited coyote cages under the cover of camouflage set up neat where some of the sightings have taken place. That’s according to Terre Haute Assistant Police Chief Mark Eldridge.

He says, as of yet, officers haven’t found any evidence of a cougar, but there’s been – quote – “several” calls about the exotic cat. Officers were beginning to become skeptical about the sightings until a city code enforcer spotted the animal this week.

“He said he was just driving along Ohio Street. I think there’s a bean field there. He saw what he thought was a deer. It looked up. He said it had a rounded head and rounded ears and it had a about a three and half foot long body and a long tail. He said it was a cougar,” Eldridge said.

Gary Langell with the Department of National Resources says cougars in the city are typically males that are trying to establish territory… or they’ve been scared by sirens or cars into losing their way.

He says the Terre Haute cougar isn’t intent on scaring or attacking anyone.

“Believe me, they want to get out of there as quickly as you want them to get out of there. They’re just as scared of you as you are of them. And most times, in most situations, in this area, they’re going to run away as quickly as they can,” Langell said.

Eldridge says there are foxes, coyotes and deer are routinely spotted in the city. Eldridge says officers aren’t likely to shoot the animal, as the shot might miss and cause intended damage or injury to bystanders. Police are considering setting up motion-sensor cameras to record any strange animal activity. But he says officers have a Plan A in case they locate the cat.

“Hopefully we get it cornered up in a tree and get code enforcement or conservation and see if they can dart it and safely capture it and get it out of the area,” Eldridge said.

Speaking on WFIU’s “Noon Edition” Langell says those tactics could provoke the animal, and the best thing may be to do nothing.

If there’s really one there, let it find its way out. It does not want to be there. It’s not a good habitat for them. They’re not going to be comfortable there. So, let it find its way out,” he said.

A sighting near an elementary school this week resulted in police patrols around the school. With the sighting took place in the same general area of the city, the newest sightings have been in the county.

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