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NYPD helps remove pet cougar from Bronx home

In an effort to encourage others to come forward with their illegal, dangerous pets, authorities did not criminally charge the owner

mountain lion puma cougar

National Park Service via AP, File

By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — That’s one less cougar on the prowl.

Animal rescue authorities said an 80-pound pet cougar was surrendered last week by its owner, who called a sanctuary after realizing the big city was no place for a big cat.

The Humane Society of the United States and the state Department of Environmental Conservation teamed up with the NYPD to remove the 11-month-old cougar from a Bronx home after the owner called for help.

Authorities took the cougar to the Bronx Zoo for safekeeping until veterinarians from an Arkansas-based wildlife refuge arrived to transport it to their sanctuary.

“They came to the realization that this cougar is getting large, and it is dangerous,” said Emily McCormack, animal curator for the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. “Those claws and those teeth and the pressure of the bite. You cannot take the wild out of these animals. Eventually something bad would have happened.”

Officials said the animal had gotten too big to be safely kept at home. Authorities declined to reveal the owner’s identity or charge her criminally in an effort to encourage other owners of dangerous, illegal pets to come forward.

McCormack said female cougars can live from 12 to 17 years in captivity, and can grow up to 140 pounds. She said their diet consists mainly of raw meat. In the wild, they prey on deer and smaller animals like coyotes, porcupines and raccoons. They usually hunt at night, dusk or dawn.

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It’s not clear what the Bronx owner was feeding her cougar. A source said the owner purchased the animal from a breeder.

“Wildlife like cougars are not pets,” said NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “While cougars may look cute and cuddly when young, these animals can grow up to be unpredictable and dangerous.”

Seggos was among those advocating for passage in Congress of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would prohibit private individuals from possessing lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars or any hybrid of these species.

The prohibition would only apply to big cats kept as pets. Sanctuaries, universities and zoos would be exempt.

Rescue workers said the owner cried, and the cougar could be heard nervously chirping as she was driven away.

This isn’t New York’s first big cat caper.

In 2003 the NYPD removed an adult tiger from a Harlem apartment with the assistance of Bronx Zoo staff, and in 2004 a child in Suffolk County was attacked by his father’s pet leopard.

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