CENTRAL ISLIP. N.Y. (PIX11) — A wild cat that had been on the run in a suburban community on Long Island for four days has now been caught, and is safe.
Rescuers said that even though the big cat, which is about the size of a Labrador retriever, is capable of aggressive behavior, the greatest danger was actually to the cat.
“The big fear here [was] the fact that he was in a residential area, and could get hit by a car, at night,” said Janine Bendicksen, director of wildlife rehabilitation at Sweetbriar Nature Center.
Sweetbriar is where the wild cat, who’s now been identified as a Eurasian lynx, was brought as a temporary sanctuary home. He was brought there around sunrise on Friday after he’d been spotted around 3:30 a.m. A car had almost run into the animal.
Frankie Floridia, the founder and director of Strong Island Animal Rescue, had been tracking the lynx since it was first reported roaming around Central Islip on Tuesday.
“He was domesticated,” Floridia said after helping to track down the big cat. “I knew he’d have the same instincts as a regular cat, and return back home.”
Floridia had been tipped off that the wild cat had been kept at a home near Hawthorne Avenue, so the rescuer had cameras, bait and other resources ready to safely capture the creature.
Someone let Floridia know about the sighting early Tuesday morning. He subsequently alerted police, who dispatched emergency services unit officers to the scene. The ESU cops are trained in animal retrieval techniques.
They used a snare pole, an adjustable metal pole with a loop on the end, to subdue the cat, and hold him steady. Two officers held the cat down, so he could be sedated, Sgt. Ryan Sefton explained.
“One by the head, one by the legs,” he said, summarizing his officers’ actions. “Then they were able in the hind quarter [to] inject the [tranquilizer].”
There had been a variety of sightings over the course of the four days, but Floridia said that knowledge and patience are what paid off in the end.
“We stayed close to the home,” he said, “Staked it out, and sure enough, we got the call that he was back by the home.”
The Eurasian lynx had been a pet, but no more. It’s illegal to keep a wild cat as a pet.
“He’ll be probably placed at a permanent sanctuary somewhere,” Bendicksen said.
She said that a number of permanent sanctuaries have already been in contact with Sweetbriar.
Big cats, like most wild animals, naturally and instinctively get more aggressive as they age. Bendicksen said that the lynx is no exception.
“None of these should be a pet, ever, in any state, no matter where,” she said.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the SPCA enforce wild animal violations. An offender can face up to $1,250 in fines between the two organizations, and up to a year in jail.
The SPCA said on Friday that anyone who turns in a wild animal that they own can do so with state amnesty. They would not face any criminal charges for voluntarily turning in a wild animal.