Bobcats usually live off prey such as rabbits and chickens, but they are not averse to dinning on their domesticated cousins if the occasion presents itself. When an Indiana couple spotted what they believed to be a bobcat prowling their backyard, they kept a vigilant watch and locked their beloved cats inside.
The trespassing cat was persistent and kept on returning to the house. Last Friday the homeowners, who wish to remain anonymous, shot and killed the animal as it was circling their pool. According to WDRB, it was only when the couple checked the carcass that they realized it was definitely not a bobcat. Photographs of the animal was taken and later sent to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“The cat in these photographs has been identified tentatively as a leopard,” said DNR communications director Phil Bloom . “Perhaps an immature cat about 9 months old. DNR is attempting to determine who it belonged to, or where it came from.”
When word of the incident leaked out the couple’s neighbors were reasonably concerned. Leopards have a wide range that stretches from Africa to Siberia and tropical Asia. Their native habitat however, does not include Clark County, Indiana. So how did this large cat wound up drinking from a Midwestern swimming pool?
Investigating officials first believed that the young leopard was a refugee from the nearby wildlife refuge, although the owner of the facility denies that he had ever kept the animal. Wildlife refuges in Indiana, like zoos, are required by law to report any escapes. Officials now suspect that the animal was a pet and are attempting to find the owner.
Leopards are exotic pets that can prove to be hard to maintain once they grow into adulthood. Unscrupulous owners will often release these animals into the wild, producing an immediate threat if the animal survives. While the smallest of the four species of “big cats,” adult leopards are notorious for their stealth and will readily eat any prey they can hunt down. It is strong enough to haul carcasses up a tree and can be extremely dangerous to pets and even humans.
That said, buying large cats in the state is not illegal but requires a permit.