Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Residents say big cat
is in South Maui area

It is about 15 miles from where
a feline was initially reported

WAILEA, Maui >> State wildlife officials are looking into residents' reports of a large cat roaming the mauka borders of Wailea in South Maui.

Officials suspended attempts to snare a large cat believed to be in the Olinda area of Upcountry Maui late last year after there were no reports of its presence for several weeks.

Wailea resident Karen Dougherty, who lives on Hale Hookipa Way, said that at about 5 p.m. Dec. 23, she checked on her dog, a white 12-year-old Samoyed named Wolf, who was barking in the back yard, and saw the animal on the border of the brush land.

Wailea, on the southern slope of Haleakala and more than 15 miles from Olinda, has a wilderness area of pasture land and dry scrub brush inhabited by wild animals, including pigs and deer.

Dougherty said she thought the animal was a black Labrador retriever at first, but it moved like a cat.

"Then I thought, 'God, that's a huge cat,'" she said. "I judged it to be 50 pounds. My dog was going crazy."

She said rather than rush off, the cat stared at her and the dog.

Dougherty said she glanced away and looked back at the brush, and the cat had disappeared.

She said she did not think much more about the sighting until she spoke with a neighbor who said they had heard loud cat sounds at night.

"The woman said the sound made the hair on the back of her neck stand," Dougherty said.

A resident living down the street from Dougherty said she and her husband heard the sound of an angry cat about the same time Dougherty had the sighting.

The woman said she called police, but authorities could find no sign of a large cat.

She said no one has heard or seen the cat in the past 10 days.

Dougherty said she called the state Department of Land & Natural Resources but received no response.

State wildlife biologist Fern Duvall said yesterday he did not receive a call from Dougherty. Duvall said he would call Dougherty and the other Wailea resident to gather information.

State wildlife officials set snares in Olinda in late October to capture what some experts believed to be a jaguar or leopard after numerous reports, but no cat has been caught.


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