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Big Cat On The Loose Worries Milwaukee Residents

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Some residents in Milwaukee's central city have been on edge because of reports that a cougar is on the loose in their neighborhood. There have been a few sightings - but just a few - and an exhaustive police search hasn't turned up anything. Marti Mikkelson of member station WUWM reports.

MARTI MIKKELSON, BYLINE: The first call came in more than a week ago. A resident spotted a big cat walking around in the neighborhood and filmed it on their cell phone. You probably can guess what happened next. The video went viral. Donald Jackson says he saw the animal rustling through some brush.

DONALD JACKSON: You can see where the lion ran. You could see when he ran because there was a big, old - like the top of the bushes was just, like, going so fast - like it looked like a movie.

MIKKELSON: Then a police officer spotted the animal sparking a huge search over the weekend. Dozens of officers and wardens combed the neighborhood. Milwaukee Police Chief, Edward Flynn, says the search is frustrating.

POLICE CHIEF EDWARD FLYNN: We're treating it seriously. We've got a number of people out there looking. We've notified DNR, we notified the zoo. The zoo has accounted for all its lions. It's certainly conceivable something may have wandered down here from upstate, following the deer population.

MIKKELSON: Flynn says it looks like the animal might be a cougar. LaShaun Hunter lives in the neighborhood and says residents here are getting jittery. So much so that somebody accidentally shot and wounded a dog, mistaking it for the lion.

LASHAUN HUNTER: You're always on guard, you know, because you don't know when it might come or what it might do.

MIKKELSON: The best guess of local animal control officials is that somebody was keeping an exotic animal as a pet, and it got loose. The next step will be to set up traps in an effort to catch the big cat alive. For NPR News, I'm Marti Mikkelson in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.