The sighting Wednesday of an enormous cat roaming a field in northern Mississippi has local residents on the lookout – and perhaps a bit on edge.
David Sluder captured video footage of the cat from his vehicle while in a fast-food restaurant line in Hernando. In the footage Sluder posted to Facebook, he says, "Man, I'm 100 yards away from this cat right now. I don't know what kind of cat it is… but this thing is huge."
The video has gone viral (more than 5,000 shares), and the mystery creature has been unofficially identified as everything from an oversized house cat to a mountain lion to a panther.
The latter two seem unlikely given that there have been no confirmed sightings of mountain lions in Mississippi in more than 100 years. There are no known panthers in the state, either.
Sluder told the Clarion-Ledger that he first thought the critter was a deer or a coyote, because it was so large. "I've never seen a cat that big, which is why I shot a video of it,” he said.
Ricky Flynt, a Biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, told the Clarion-Ledger that the animal is simply a large house cat, saying the pointed ears are the giveaway.
However, given the size of the animal, some are not ruling out mountain lion. In fact, a mountain lion was killed by a hunter recently in Arkansas, only 80 miles from Mississippi.
That incident and increased sightings in Arkansas and Missouri could indicate that it's only a matter of time before mountain lions start appearing in Mississippi.
On Thursday, Fox 13 reported that Animal Control in Hernando is on the assumption that it the cat is a mountain lion.
Sluder told Fox 13 that it just seemed too large to be a house cat.
"I [saw] it standing in the middle of that field and I knew that I was not going to be exiting the truck to get a closer shot," he said.
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