Agency: Cougar attack was hoax

Lancaster, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Game Commission says a
Lancaster County man lied when he reported shooting one cougar and
being attacked by another near his farm Oct. 9.

In a news release issued Oct. 20, Doug Killough, director of the
agency’s southeast regional office, said “this incident is
considered to be a hoax.”

And the agency is considering charging Samuel Fisher, 42, of
Sadsbury Township, with making a false report to authorities.

Taking a break from raking fresh-cut barley with a team of
horses in one of his fields Oct. 20, Fisher said he stands by his
story.

“What do they think caused my wounds?” he said. “And what gets
me is, they’re saying ‘hoax,’ so nobody’s paying attention to the
fact that there are big cats running around down here.”

Several people in the Christiana area reported seeing up to
three cougars over the past three months. Fisher said he saw three
cougars on two different occasions prior to Oct. 9.

On that day, a neighbor told Fisher two cougars had been spotted
the night before in a field off Mount Pleasant Road.

Fisher said he went to that field armed with his .30-.30 rifle
late in the afternoon of Oct. 9 and saw three cougars. He said he
shot one, and all the cougars ran off.

Fisher said he followed a blood trail across the field, across
Mount Pleasant Road and down a dirt lane when a second cougar
jumped out of a tree onto his back.

Fisher said he fought with the cougar for several minutes,
during which time the cat scratched his arms, chest and face.

Since his rifle was knocked out of his hands, Fisher said he
pulled out a pocketknife and stabbed the cougar three times before
it ran off.

Fisher went to a neighbor’s house and reported the attack. He
was taken by ambulance to Lancaster General Hospital where he was
treated for multiple scratches and released a few hours later.

Game Commission officers, state police troopers, a state police
helicopter and specially trained tracking dogs spent three days
searching the area where Fisher said the attack occurred, but found
nothing.

In a news release issued Oct. 20, the agency reported that
numerous samples of alleged blood were taken from the spot where
Fisher said he shot one cat, from the trail he said he followed and
from the scene of his alleged fight with the cat.

All samples were sent to the Pennsylvania State Police Crime Lab
for testing.

“All tested negative for blood,” the news release states.

Agency spokesman Jerry Feaser said more extensive tests would be
required to determine what the substance was, but he said no more
tests were planned, as the Game Commission was only concerned with
determining whether the sample was blood.

The knife Fisher said he used to stab the cat also was tested
and “it tested positive for the presence of blood,” Feaser said.
Hair also was found on the knife, but the Game Commission reported
it was from a deer.

The knife was sent to East Stroudsburg University for further
testing to determine where the blood came from. Feaser said he did
not know how long that testing will take.

“Investigating officers found no evidence of mountain lion hair
or scat or tracks at, around or in the vicinity of the alleged
incident,” the news release states.

When asked if the Game Commission had identified a motive Fisher
might have had for fabricating the attack, Feaser said “no.”

Stephen Mohr, president of Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania and
a resident of Lancaster County, said he was asked to monitor the
situation by one of Fisher’s neighbors on Oct. 9.

He said he believes the Game Commission’s report on the alleged
blood samples and credited the agency with “doing more
investigating than they have ever done before with a reported
cougar sighting.”

But he said he’s not ready to call Fisher’s story a hoax.

“Something attacked Sam,” he said. “I believe that. What it was,
I don’t know.”

Mohr led a community meeting at a local fire hall Oct. 21 that
was attended by about 300 people. He said he was asked to lead that
meeting by the local Amish community to provide a forum for people
to ask questions and to “get everybody on the same page about big
cats.”

Mohr suggested Fisher’s wounds were indicative of an attack by a
pen-raised cougar. The claw marks on Fisher’s arms and chest were
not more serious, Mohr suggested, because the cat that attacked him
was probably raised on a cement floor, which would have dulled the
cat’s nails.

And it’s possible, he said, that the alleged blood samples
collected by the Game Commission for testing came back negative as
blood because someone poured a substance on top of the blood before
it was collected. That substance could have skewed the tests, Mohr
said.

“Who would do that?” Mohr said. “I don’t know. Maybe the people
who released the cats.”

Dennis Warfel, the Game Commission’s wildlife conservation
officer in southern Lancaster County, said he doesn’t believe
Fisher’s story about the attack. But he said he’s not dismissing
the possibility that there is a cougar on the loose in Lancaster
County.

“I’m not going to say there is or there isn’t,” he said. “If
there is a large cat out there, I want to believe it’s a bobcat …
Could there be a released (cougar) out there? Yes.

“Can we prove it at this time? No.”

Feaser could not say if or when the Game Commission might file
charges against Fisher for making a false report.

And Fisher said he doesn’t know “what I’ll do if they charge me.
I can’t control that, so I’m just going to go about my business and
do my work like usual.”

Some members of the local community, who asked not to be named,
said they believe there are cougars in the area, but said they are
skeptical of Fisher’s story.

“The Pennsylvania Game Commission has no evidence of wild,
breeding populations of large cats in Pennsylvania to date,” said
Killough.

“With that in mind, we do acknowledge that numerous people do
have exotic animals which escape or are released illegally.

“While this incident is considered to be a hoax, we will
continue to investigate credible sightings or evidence of exotic
wildlife.”

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