Is There Really a Cougar in North Canton?
By Autumn Ziemba, Fox 8 News Reporter
NORTH CANTON, Ohio — Something is stalking the town of North Canton.
Police there are reporting multiple sightings of what is described as a cougar or mountain lion, in mainly residential areas.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Fifth Street resident Joyce Wise.
Wise told Fox 8 News that she was awoken by her cat late Tuesday night.
“She came running into the living room making a screeching noise and jumped in my lap, like she was scared,” Wise explained.
That’s when Wise noticed that something in her backyard had triggered her motion sensor light. When she looked out her back window, she spotted the feline culprit.
“It looked like it might weigh 100 pounds or so, it was tannish in color, and it had a huge, long tail that hung down to the ground and curled up at the end. And it was very muscular,” Wise said.
Wise said the animal walked the entire perimeter of her backyard, moving slow enough for her to get a good look. An online photo of a mountain lion confirmed what she had spotted.
“We’re dealing with something that could be some kind of a hybrid cat or maybe it’s a mountain lion. I don’t know,” said North Canton Police Chief Stephan Wilder.
Chief Wilder told Fox 8 News that his department has responded to six credible sightings, extending from the western part of the city, to the northeast.
One officer even captured a picture of a large, cat-like paw print near the west branch of the Nimishillen Creek.
“Was it a pet? And was it an exotic pet that got away from its homeowner or that was released into the wild?” Chief Wilder asked.
Mountain lions are very rare in northeast Ohio, and it is the cat’s proximity to residential areas that has the police on alert. Chief Wilder said he has gone as far as to notify local day care facilities to keep a close eye when children are playing outdoors.
He also wants pet owners to be on the lookout.
“To hear it was that big–then you start to keep your eyes open a little bit more,” said mother-of-three Laura Fierro, whose backyard backs up to Wise’s.
“When we go outside, if it’s in the evening, I make sure I’m with (the kids), and they know about it, to keep a look out,” Fierro said.
That’s exactly what Chief Wilder wants the public to do. He also asks anyone who spots the animal to try to safely get a picture or video for the police.
However, he does not want any resident to attempt to trap or shoot the cat.
“I really don’t want them taking anything into their own hands. Call us–let us handle it,” Wilder said.