#CougarOrNot: Photos leave residents of Durham neighborhood shaking their heads

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
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Durham residents are wondering if the creature in this picture is a cat or something else

DURHAM (WTVD) -- It's definitely a feline, but besides that, the photos offer different perspectives to the naked eye.

According to biologists at the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, the mystery creature is just a "house cat," but they acknowledged how the photos may have deceived many neighbors.

"With game cameras, you're seeing not just what's right in front of you but what's also in the background," biologist Jessie Birckhead explained to ABC11. "That makes animals seem smaller or larger than they actually appear."

A homeowner's outside camera caught a short glimpse of the cat in Durham County's Hardscrabble Plantations neighborhood near the Orange County line.

Pictures quickly circulated on social media and earned the ire and worry of several neighbors, including Stacey Carrington.

"I saw that photo and I thought about my own animals and my kids walking to the bus stop," Carrington said. "I'm not saying they would go after a child, but I don't want to take a chance."

Birckhead, a biologist based in Raleigh, said the district office received several calls about the photos, and it didn't take long for her team to quickly rule out the cat being a mountain lion or bobcat.

"For one thing, cougars haven't been in North Carolina for more than 100 years," she quipped. "The shape of the tail was another classic house cat feature - a bobcat would've had longer legs and different facial features as well."

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Birckhead did assert, however, neighbors did the right thing in raising concerns about the photos and contacting the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

The state has a dedicated helpline for residents to learn about wildlife behavior, how to deal with wildlife damage, ways to prevent conflicts with wildlife on your property, and how to request on-the-ground assistance.

For more information, call (866) 318-2401 or visit NC wildlife's website.

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