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DEC: Tracks Likely Not from Jaguar, But Perhaps a Fox

Large fox sighting reported Wednesday morning in Hither Hills.

Photos released Tuesday afternoon show the trackings investigators found on an East Hampton farm after , or similar type of exotic cat, on Sunday, but they are likely not that of a jaguar — but perhaps a large fox.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation received a call on Wednesday morning about a fox the caller almost had mistaken for an exotic cat, seen in the area in Montauk.

DEC spokesman Bill Fonda said the caller, whose name he did not release, reported seeing an animal, reddish in color around the head, with a greyish-color on the back. "He too thought it was a cat at first, but he said it's definitely a fox," Fonda said, adding that he passed the information onto to the environmental conservation officers and the DEC's wildlife unit. 

The caller also said the fox looked to be having some type of issue with its fur. 

Fonda noted the photograph taken of tracks on a Spring Close Lane farm on Sunday, after the farmer reported seeing a jaguar, could possibly belong to a fox.

The photos show nail markings from the animal's claws. "With those claw marks being as visible in those photos as they are, cats - probably with the exception of cheetahs - they don't typically have their claws showing," Fonda said.

The farmer also reported seeing a long tail — which foxes have, he said.

"When you're seeing things for just a second . . . people could mistaken them for something else," Fonda said.

Larry Penny, the longtime director of the town's Natural Resources department who retired in March, said it's possible the jaguar-sighting was really that of a grey fox. "Grey foxes are very cat-like. But we don't have many grey foxes on Long Island," he said. 

In fact, staff at  in Hampton Bays said they haven't dealt with any — only red foxes.

Penny said he has heard many reports of odd animal sightings on the South Fork over the years — a black panther on North Haven, a kangaroo on Route 114, an Emu, and many reports of bobcats and mountain lions. He doesn't recall any reports panning out. "Unless it was a really good story, I didn't take any notes," he said.

Reports of a mountain lion roaming East Quogue in 2011 went unsubstantiated. The DEC determined casting taken of the animal's paw prints were that of a dog, according to an article on 27East.

Augie Frati, a volunteer there and the husband of executive director Ginnie Frati, said on Tuesday that a jaguar, "would be unusual, but not impossible." 

According to National Geographic, jaguars were once found from the southern tip of South America north to the area around the U.S.-Mexico border. Jaguars are primarily found in remote regions of South and Central America.

"If it's a true sighting of an exotic cat, it's more than likely somebody had it in captivity," Frati said. "I don't know why they would even think of doing this. These animals don't belong as pets." 

In fact, a bobcat, that had been someone's pet, now lives at the because it couldn't be returned to the wild as its previous owner had declawed her.

Cathy Hansen, of Amagansett, who spent six years working for a vet who worked on exotic animals from mountain lions to tigers, said, "People not familiar with exotic felines and canines certainly could mistake a fox for a jaguar but that would be one seriously large fox."

The description provided to ECO officers on Sunday was an animal five feet long and two feet high at the shoulder. "I live in in Amagansett and see fox often but have never seen one so big I would mistake it for a big cat, plus fox really do have bushy tails, whereas cats do not."

Based on the photograph on the track mark, she wondered if it could belong to a wolf. "Wolves and wolf/dog hybrids do have this type of paw print ... Mind you many people have these hybrid wolves as pets."

ViralGrain September 12, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Possible jaguar.... Really what were they smoking. The boy who cried jaguar.
Gail Simons September 12, 2012 at 05:32 PM
"In fact, a bobcat, that had been someone's pet, now lives at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge because it couldn't be returned to the wild as its previous owner had declawed her." ...people suck! One of my house cats is a rescue that someone had the brilliant idea of declawing - only then they "lost" her and she was forced to barely survive in the wild for months before I got her. She was severely underweight (from not being able to properly hunt) and her teeth had all been broken from where she'd been defending herself with her teeth instead of her claws. She was a wreck - all because someone wanted to save a sofa. Doing this to a domestic cat is horrendous - but to an exotic big cat? CRIMINAL! I hope charges were brought against those jerks!!!
Gail Simons September 12, 2012 at 05:36 PM
People are *interesting* (trying to find a nice word). We are volunteer wildlife rescuers for the Wildlife Rescue Center & get some very *interesting* calls. An "injured" gannet on the beach this summer turned out to be so dead that rigor mor´tis had set in and it's eyeballs had already been eaten clean from scavengers.
Sophie7 September 12, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Ya know, last year a sweet rescue dog got away from ARF never to be found(I believe). She was a Shiba Inu often mistaken for fox...maybe she grew like crazy and s still alive...? I hope. PS...declawing an animal is thee most selfish barbaric act on a 'pet'...don't HAVE a pet if you are going to mutilate it!!!!!!!!!
James September 12, 2012 at 06:34 PM
That's not even a fox. It's a dog, roughly the size of a Collie.
Bob McCoy September 20, 2012 at 04:27 AM
That print looks too small for a wolf or hybrid. A wolf's paw would leave a print about 4.5" long by 3.5" wide. People are interesting. Often we see what we would like to see. Hence, many sightings are of animals that have left no species-specific signs. Mutilation of pets is an entirely different matter. My experience is that the people who essentially cut the last finger digits off a cat, are looking for something to match the furniture or color scheme. When the room is redecorated, the cat has served its purpose, and is tossed out. The real assholes are the vets that perform the surgery. Instead of saying, "This is the wrong pet for you," they mutilate an animal for money. If you're a vet that performs onychectomy operations, don't bother responding to me with justifications--there are none as an elective operation.

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