Who releases exotic cats?

I just read your column on the phantom cougars of the Adirondacks [July/August 2010]. Almost every year I see a similar article, and invariably human sightings are blown off as misidentifications or purely imagination.

Three or four years ago in May I was headed to Lake Placid for our first hike of the year. Somewhere between Chapel Pond and St. Huberts on Route 73 we almost hit a large black cat, I would guess in the fifty-to-sixty-pound range. It came out on the left side of the road and angled directly toward our car, veering off at the last second past our right front fender.
Only a full emergency brake by my friend averted a collision.

This was not an illusion, phantom, or yearning. It was clear, with no doubt as to what it was. Not a cougar but an all-jet-black leopard like you would see in a circus. Naturally we were shocked. One year later an article in a Saranac Lake paper told of a man in Keene Valley who
I think saw the same cat. I contacted the DEC and made a report but had the feeling the man I talked to was humoring me. Perhaps because of the simultaneous article or maybe because it sounds so ridiculous.

I’m sure there is not an indigenous or breeding population of cougars or leopards, but I can assure you that there is, or was, at least one. What amazed me is that a South American animal could survive an Adirondack winter.

I’ve seen enough smirks and rolled-back eyes when I have related this, so naturally I don’t push it. Maybe a future article could include some thoughts as to who would release these animals and what their chances of survival are instead of analyzing the minds of the witnesses.

Chris Worden, Rochester

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