Neighbors warily watch for cougar|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|10/20/03 at 12:50:56|JON_DOWNES|xx|0|217.42.205.224|BothfFrom the Oneida (NY) Dispatch:
Neighbors warily watch for cougar
By:MIKE ACKERMAN , Dispatch Staff Writer  10/09/2003

ONEIDA - Recent sightings of a large cat on the northwest side of the city
have raised much speculation in recent days as to exactly what kind of
animal is prowling neighborhoods.

Many neighbors in the Garfield Avenue area believe what they've seen is a
cougar, though the animal hasn't positively been identified yet, according
to Oneida Police Chief David Meeker.

A video camera recording of the cat taken by Dawn Hawver on September 26
could not be positively identified by city police. Also, a report of a paw
print in the area could not be confirmed by police, probably because of
rain, said Meeker.

Hawver said she took the video tape to the state park police at Verona
Beach. The park rangers referred her to the DEC. She said after Oneida
Police Officer Mike McCarthy reviewed the tape, in his opinion the cat was a
cougar.

"He said it was a female cougar that was nursing, so she has babies
somewhere," said Hawver. "When I filmed it, it was about 150 feet away, just
sitting on the ground, sunning herself."

McCarthy could not be reached for confirmation on Wednesday.

Hawver said the animal didn't seem frightened by a neighbor next door
running a chainsaw.

The cat has been spotted by her neighbors on several occasions in the past
month, she said.

Hawver said she's noticed an eerie silence along the dead end street in
recent days.

"I used to wake up and listen to the birds chirping, but now it's totally
quiet ... like they know the cougar is here."

The Oneida Police Department sent a copy of the video to the New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation to see if experts could identify
the animal, but results weren't back to the police department by Wednesday.

"So far, we've only had that one confirmed sighting," said Meeker. "The DEC
did say that it's possible it could be a cougar, even though a cougar is
rare in our area."

The police department is warning residents that if confronted by a large cat
back away slowly.

"Though cats like this are mostly nocturnal and elusive, if the cat has cubs
nearby it could be dangerous," said Meeker.

Verona Beach State Park Director Gordon Betts said a cougar in the area is
not out of the realm of possibilities.

He said two were spotted in the Fayetteville-Manlius area in the spring.

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Woman says she's seen 2nd cougar
By:JOLENE WALTERS and MIKE ACKERMAN , Dispatch Staff Writers  10/17/2003

ONEIDA - Big cats are still being spotted in Oneida.
Dawn Hawver, who was the first to report the sighting of a big cat last
month, said Thursday that she's seen a second one, smaller with different
markings than the first.

Her most recent sighting was around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

"It came into the back yard in about the same spot the other one did, but
this time I didn't have time to get my camera," said Hawver. "It took off as
soon as it saw me."

Hawver said did not report the second sighting to the police.

Oneida City Police Chief David Meeker confirms there has been no new
official reports of a "cougar-like" cat being spotted in the area in roughly
the past two weeks. "It's most likely moved on," Meeker said.

Many residents in the Garfield Avenue area of Oneida had reported seeing
what they believed was a cougar, though a video Hawver took of the animal
hasn't positively been identified by the state Department of Environmental
Conservation.

Hawver was contacted Thursday by John Lutz, a member of the Eastern Puma
Research Network, a group of about 500 big cat experts from several eastern
universities.

Lutz asked Hawver for a copy of her original videotape from early October.

"We've got experts who I'm sure could identify that cat," said Lutz.

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