The juvenile cat was shot in a yard off Highway 3 in Charlestown, IN. (Source: Donna Burke)
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - People in one southern Indiana town trying to figure out what was killing house cats and dogs finally got their answer Thursday night. It was a leopard, according to Indiana Conservation Officers.
Neighbors shot and killed the juvenile cat in a yard off Highway 3 in Charlestown. Wildlife is not uncommon in the area where the leopard was found.
The sightings started about two weeks ago. One neighbor called Tim Stark, the owner of Wildlife in Need, a sanctuary for exotic animals Stark operates. The business is on the other side of the woods about a mile from where the leopard was killed.
"I went over there to ease [a woman's] mind and set a trap. I thought it was kind of comical myself," Stark said.
He still didn't believe the woman when she called to say they caught the animal and that it was a leopard.
"I just kind of snickered," Stark said, "‘cause I was still expecting them to say this is a big cat, coyote or something stupid. She said, ‘It's a leopard.' I just kind of blew it off thinking, ‘Yeah, right.'"
After seeing the cat himself before conservation officers took it away, Stark said he was upset he didn't believe them and catch the animal alive. "The cat paid the ultimate price," Stark said.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources officials think someone kept the leopard as a pet.
Stark wonders if someone got the leopard as a cub, and when it got to the size it is now, it became too much and they purposefully freed it near his business.
"That's what they've done here," Stark said. "They've thrown it on my doorstep hoping one of my neighbors would see it or whatever, I'd catch it or whatever, and it would come here and live happily ever after."
If that's the case, it hasn't been proven.
Regardless of where the leopard came from, the people who found it in their yards just hope there aren't any more.
Anyone with information about the leopard's origin is urged to call Indiana Conservation Officers Central Dispatch at 812-837-9536 or 800-TIP-IDNR.
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1115 Mt. Auburn Road
Evansville, IN 47720