Big Cat Sightings Spread Throughout Rockland County, NY

With the number of wild animal sightings being reported this spring, you'd think Rockland County was more untamed than a suburb.

This time, a large feline was spotted roughly 10 miles from three other sites people have claimed to see them.

Dennis Ryan of Pearl River said he was walking his Labrador retriever along Ehrhardt Road early yesterday when he saw what he described as a mountain lion under a streetlight.

"The animal was walking south. It crossed the road and went into the bushes, then came back out, stared at me and moved toward me, though it wasn't stalking me or going to attack," Ryan said. "I could see it was thinking about it, though. The animal never showed fear."

Its size and the tan color of its fur made him think it was a mountain lion.

"It was definitely not a bobcat. It was bigger than a German shepherd and longer," he said. "It had the typical mountain lion coloring."

The animal then slipped into the bushes near the Neighborhood Alliance Church, he said.

It wasn't the first time he'd seen one. Ryan said a smaller such feline appeared near Pearl River Middle School not long ago, and people on his mail route have seen them in Upper Nyack.

He didn't call police because the sighting occurred around 2 a.m., but Ryan did think twice about walking his dog at night.

"I walk my dog late at night," he said. "I'm not sure I'll do that again."

Ryan was the latest of a string of people who claim they've seen large felines in the county.

On Wednesday, two workers at Rockland Lake State Park said they saw a sizable, dark-colored animal that resembled a cat near the clubhouse at the north golf course. The animal spotted some deer and ran into the woods before police got there, according to reports.

This month and in mid-March, several others called police to report sightings of black, "panther-like" creatures in Palisades and Tallman Mountain State Park.

Pat Coleman, Clarkstown's animal control officer, said the sightings have people's imaginations running wild.

If panthers or mountain lions were prowling around Rockland, she said, there would be evidence in the form of animal carcasses or worse.

"It doesn't make sense," she said. "This has been going on for too long for something bad not to have happened."

Cameras that were planted in Tallman Mountain State Park have picked up only raccoons and coyotes, she said.

Coleman suggests snapping a picture of the animal with a camera phone or regular camera and showing it to police.

"There is no doubt in my mind that if people didn't hear 'panther,' they wouldn't think they were seeing panthers," she said. "People think they're seeing something, but is it reliable? I don't know."


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