Mysterious 'lion' captivates Milwaukee

Mystery 'lion' on the loose in Milwaukee
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    Mystery 'lion' on the loose in Milwaukee

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Mystery 'lion' on the loose in Milwaukee 02:04

Story highlights

  • A large cat -- a cougar, a panther, or maybe a lion -- was videoed in a Milwaukee backyard
  • It might be an exotic pet that escaped, said the director of Milwaukee Domestic Animal Control

(CNN)On its Facebook page, the Mystery Lion of Milwaukee describes itself like this: "I am a on-the-go Lion, very new to Milwaukee. I like roaming the streets, dodging paparazzi, and minding my own business. I want to remain FREE!"

Sorry, Lion, you're officially a public figure in Brew City -- even if you do spend most of your time hiding in the bushes.
Milwaukee has gone crazy over a very large feline -- a cougar, a panther, or maybe a real lion -- first spotted July 20 roaming through the back yard of Bill and Annie Nolen's neighbor.
    "I was afraid to move," Annie Nolen said. "I thought, what am I looking at."
    Their daughter's grainy video went viral. Since then, Milwaukee police have taken dozens of calls from people who think they've seen the cat, dubbed the Milwaukee Lion. Most sightings have come from the north side of town.
    "There are people who have reported they think maybe they've seen a shadow or a movement or something," Police Chief Ed Flynn said on July 23. "We're treating it seriously."
    So seriously that police and Department of Natural Resources officers combed the streets and wooded areas for two days. Officers armed with rifles took up positions overlooking city greenways at times. They didn't catch anything.
    Karen Saprapani, executive director of the Milwaukee Domestic Animal Control, said a DNR warden briefly saw a large cat.
    "His feeling was that it was a juvenile male African lion," she said. "He had previously been on a safari and was pretty confident that is what it was. Also, there was a smell of large cat urine, which can be very strong."
    Since the zoo has not reported any missing cats, Saprapani thinks it might be an exotic pet that escaped.
    "It can be expensive to feed a growing big cat because they require lots of raw meat," she said. "It's possible whomever owned it was overwhelmed by the cost and released it on purpose figuring local authorities would be able to take care of it, or they actually lost it and are afraid to come forward because of all the concern."
    Some citizens were terrified, but social media embraced the lion, giving it a Facebook page and twitter accounts (#mkelion). Doctored pictures showed the lion wearing a cheesehead hat and riding city buses.
    Big cats are not unknown in Wisconsin. There have been 169 possible sightings of mountain lions or cougars since 2011, but almost all in the northern part of the state. Only eight sightings were confirmed.
    The attention may be too much for the animal. Somebody reported seeing it on Sunday in the Milwaukee suburbs, reported the Glendale Now website.
    Even if that's true, the Milwaukee lion will not soon be forgotten.
    "This is the biggest thing to happen to the city in a long time," Saprapani said. "Everyone is talking about it."