Is an African Lion Roaming the City Streets?


Is an African lion roaming the streets of Norwalk, CA?  Security cameras captured footage of what seems to be a large cat. The footage is of course grainy, so it's hard to tell exactly what it is.  

In my experience as a Naturalist at the National Wildlife Federation, I can say that most people are just not that good at identifying wildlife, so I'm never too quick to believe the media hype over this kind of thing without further investigation or commentary from an actual wildlife expert. When you're looking at such grainy footage, it's even easy for experts to be stumped or even make misidentifications. So take what you're hearing and reading in the media with a grain of salt. 

So with that said, check out this report from Good Morning America.  Get my take on what I think the video shows below.

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In my opinion, the animal in the video definitely moves like a large cat rather than a dog, including wild dogs such as coyotes and foxes. Often, domestic cats are mistaken for big cats in grainy or dark videos like this one, but this animal definitely looks more massive than a domestic cat to me. Bobcats and mountain lions are native to the area, but the head is much larger and thicker than that of a mountain lion and the animal's long, thin tail rules out a bobcat. I don't see spots or stripes, which would rule out leopard, jaguar or tiger, cheetah or other big cat species.

Here's my appearance on Inside Edition about this odd animal sighting:


So, based on this limited video, it does seem to me like the animal is an African lion, probably a female or a young male due to lack of a visible mane.


Photo by Tambako the Jaguar from Flickr Creative Commons. 

If that is indeed the case, the questions of where it came from and where it currently is need to be answered. It can be surprisingly easy for unqualified individuals to obtain a big cat as a pet--which is an exceedingly stupid thing to do. It's possible this animal was in the care of a private exotic animal collector and escaped.

If it is an African lion, let's hope that it is safely re-captured and brought to live in facility where it will be kept in a secure enclosure and given the proper care.

Symbolically Adopt a Lion with the National Wildlife Federation.  

David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Meet David >







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