When Peter Henry saw a cat dart out in front of his truck while driving in the Sooke area of Vancouver Island on Monday, the last thing that he expected was a species whose native range was thousands of miles away.
“I ran over this exotic serval cat last night… waiting for conservation officers to contact me!” he wrote on Facebook. “Kinda shocking when it jumped out in front of the truck!”
According to the CBC, the unfortunate animal was indeed a serval wild cat. These medium-sized felines are native to sub-Saharan Africa and are generally used to warmer climates than Vancouver Island, where it died. So what was it doing in Sooke? Well, the answer seemed to be that it actually lived there. Doug Nelson, a local cat breeder, told The Vancouver Sun that he sold one of these exotic cats to a Sooke resident but it escaped in August. Servals are rare among pet owners, but are legal on the island, depending on each municipality’s bylaws. They are not cheap—Nelson said that he sells each of these long-legged felines for about $8,000.
“They’re a non-aggressive cat, but that changes if they’re out and they’re scared and they’re threatened,” Nelson told the Sun.
Servals are also known to be very mischievous thanks to their intelligence. The cat’s problem-solving ability means that servals are experts in breaking out of captivity. If this is the same cat that escaped in August, it adjusted well to its new environment. Like many other cats of its same size, the serval primarily dines on small rodents and birds, although it can also consume prey such as reptiles and hares. They are comparable to North American bobcats in size, although servals have the longest legs of any cat and have impressive jumping power. Servals are not considered dangerous to humans.