New Orleanian man finds African Wildcat in backyard

African Serval Wildcat

An African serval wildcat similar to this was found in the backyard

A 58 year old man from New Orleans had a surprise when he checkout a noise in his mothers backyard – instead of finding a Raccoon going through the trash, Carl Henderson discovered a Serval Wildcat.

When Carl Henderson stepped into the backyard of his mother’s Uptown home Tuesday at mid morning, he was checking out a neighbor’s report of raccoon playing about.

He found something quite different.

Henderson encountered what looked like a small cheetah, 22 pounds and lean, two feet tall in the arch of its back, a long tail, with black and brown spots. An intimidating, lovely feline in an unlikely spot.

“The spots and design on it, the natural nature thing,” the 58-year-old New Orleanian said later in the day, still flabbergasted at the mysterious find. “An artist couldn’t do that. It was a sight for the eyes.”

What he found resting in the shade was a female serval, a small African wildcat, the possession of which is illegal for private citizens in Orleans Parish, Audubon Nature Institute officials said.

Henderson’s first instinct was to call the cops, nervous that the wildcat might harm children in the vicinity. But before the law arrived, he somewhat boldly tried to befriend the cat.

He took it water, then slices of American cheese, then pieces of turkey wing.

The cat lapped up the offerings, but bared her teeth and hissed when he drew near.

The official response to Henderson’s 911 call was robust. A small crowd of police officers pulled up at his home in the 700 block of Jena Street, initially leery, he said, of stepping into the yard. An agent from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries came too, as did staffers from the Audubon Institute, which runs the zoo.

Henderson was shooed inside the house. Audubon’s veterinarian staff tranquilized the cat with a dart gun, then captured it in a net, spokeswoman Sarah Burnette said. Late in the day, the animal was resting in the zoo’s hospital as police tried to determine where it came from and whether it has an owner, legal or otherwise.

“You wouldn’t just find a serval hanging around Uptown normally,” Burnette said, adding that the cat is likely someone’s exotic pet. But such a creature is nothing to play with, said Maria Davidson, large carnivore programs manager for the state wildlife service.

“It’s a wildcat,” she said. “It’s not as big as a lion or a tiger, but it could certainly do damage to a person.”

Servals typically feed on small animals such as frogs, birds and rabbits, although they occasionally have been seen taking larger game, such as small antelopes.

Source and Quoted text: Nola, Man finds African wildcat in Uptown backyard

It sounds like this cat has been on the loose for a number of weeks, as it has been spotted in several locations around New Orleans, including a Council Meeting.

Servals cats are bread as exotic pets, and there are a large number of breeders in the US (see Servals Cat Breeders list on Serval-Cats.com)), this one has probably just escaped, but it could be that it became to much to handle for its owner, who may have let it go wild – which is one of the main theories for other big cat sightings around the world.

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