The State Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating several reports of an exotic cat, like a jaguar, on the loose in East Hampton.
Environmental Control Officers were called out to a farm at 56 Spring Close Lane on Sunday morning, after Matthew Lester spotted "a greyish cat-like creature about 5-feet long, 2-feet high at the shoulder with a long striped tail eating composting vegetables and meat scraps," according to Bill Fonda, a spokesman for the DEC.
The animal fled quickly into the brush upon the caller's arrival at about 11 a.m., Fonda said. Officers found tracks in the area, though they couldn't identify the animal that left them. One of the tracks did appear to belong to a large animal. Photographs have been forwarded to the DEC's wildlife unit for further examination.
No further evidence, such as hair, was found in the area, Fonda said.
They plan on installing a camera on the trail near the farm, leased by Pantigo Farm Co. and owned by Mike Bistrian.
As of right now, Fonda said, "There's not sufficient evidence of a cougar, panther, jaguar or similar exotic creature."
He said the East Hampton Town police and two ECO officers responded after receiving the report, but that the DEC was already looking into previous reports of a jaguar in the area of Skimphampton Road and Further Lane in East Hampton.
The DEC has no record of there being a special license for jaguar, or another exotic cat on the East End, which is allowed for educational purposes, Fonda said, adding the first order of business was to check if one that belonged to someone had become loose. "Potentially people have an illegal one," he said.
Fonda said he spoke to an ECO captain, who remembers about six similar reports during the course of his 30-year career. "They never really bare out," Fonda said, adding that they could recall none that had. "Usually it winds up being dogs or cats."
Correction: The report of the cat-like creature was initially made on Sunday, not Monday. The DEC regrets the error.
Have you ever seen such an animal around East Hampton? Heard such stories? Tell us what you think in the comments below.