The city of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is warning citizens not to approach a 25-pound “exotic cat” that was seen wandering a popular beach-side road Wednesday morning.
It is believed to have escaped months ago from a home on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
A photo posted by city officials shows a spotted feline that appears to be a cross between a house cat and a leopard. Known as a serval, the cats are native to Africa, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.
“The cat may be social with humans, however Animal Control does not suggest anyone approach or interact with it,” said the city’s Facebook post. “This type of cat is known to eat small rodents, such as mice and squirrels, as well as small birds.”
The long-legged feline was reported wandering the 2300 block of Shore Drive, the city’s post says. Virginia Beach is just above the North Carolina state line, north of the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge on the Outer Banks.
Virginia Beach Animal Control officers responded to the Wednesday report, but found only animal tracks, officials said.
The cat stands just over 2 feet at the shoulders, officials said. It was seen with two black collar boxes around its neck, which officials said may be for “electric fencing or tracking.”
Police said in a Thursday update that they had located the animal’s owner, and learned it had escaped in October from a home in Kitty Hawk, N.C., about 85 miles south of Virginia Beach.
The wayward serval, named Rocky, is wearing a GPS locator around its neck, but the batteries have died, police said.
TV station WVEC-13 identified the owner as Brian Hankins, and reported he is working with authorities to help recapture the cat.
“He is not dangerous to children or dogs or other cats,” Hankins posted on the city’s Facebook page.
Virginia Beach officials belief the serval may have survived the past five months by eating seagulls, reported TV station WXII.
The serval cat is well known to residents of the Outer Banks, having been “spotted many times and caught on security footage,” OBXToday.com reported.
“Traps have been set and wildlife trackers have worked to find him, but the elusive feline evaded capture,” said OBXToday.com on Wednesday.