Home Video of Big Cat Causes a Scare

By: Lauren Zakalik
By: Lauren Zakalik

Imagine looking out your back window and seeing a huge lion-like animal jumping out of a tree. One White Lake Township couple said they did, and shot video to prove it. Corky Phelps said he and his wife were shocked.

The video ran Monday night on WDIV in Detroit and created quite a stir. Immediately after seeing the video, wildlife expert Pat Rusz of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy thought the animal was a very rare black cougar.

"It sure does look black," Rusz said while watching the video. "A lot of people say there can't be black cougars, but there have been three carcasses confirmed and documented. One in South America, one in Costa Rica and one less documented in Colorado."

But upon further investigation, it turns out the tree may only be about 15 inches in diameter. The branch the cat jumps off in the video? About 36 inches tall.

Rusz said there have been similar cats sighted in the same area, so his initial reaction was positive. After hearing the size of the tree, he wasn't so sure.

"Boy, this sure warrants a lot more investigation."

Officials are investigating the home video. If it does turn out, in fact, to be a large cat, the Department of Natural Resources says chances are it's someone's escaped exotic pet, like a jaguar or leopard.

"They would probably turn to the fact that it can't be a cougar because it's black, it's got to be a black leopard because black leopards are a little more common," he said.

The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy has long held that black cougars exist. But the DNR has yet to see any evidence.


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