Wildlife Officials Looking For Escaped Snow Leopard - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Wildlife Officials Looking For Escaped Snow Leopard

(SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky., July 29th, 2004, 1 p.m.) -- A pet snow leopard is on the loose in Bullitt County, but it sounds much more dangerous than it is.

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say the big cat has been declawed. It escaped near Kentucky 44 and Bells Lane as it was being transferred from one cage to another.

The 2-year-old leopard, owned by Tim Peveler, is white with black spots. Being declawed lessens the chance that it would harm people or other animals, said Mark Marraccini, a spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Officers and biologists with the department were combing the area near the caretaker's home just east of Shepherdsville. They set traps to capture the 50-pound animal without harm but had not caught it as of Wednesday night, Marraccini said.

Peveler said Wednesday that he most fears that someone will harm the animal. He said he has searched for it exhaustively since it escaped Tuesday night.

The leopard grew up in Peveler's care and is comfortable around humans, Marraccini said. It's uncertain what the animal would eat if it gets hungry, he said. It likely wouldn't challenge a dog since it has no claws.

Peveler said the leopard is one of several animals he keeps on the property. He has kept exotic animals for 30 years, he said.

But Marraccini said that the Department of Fish and Wildlife hasn't found any record that Peveler has a wildlife transportation permit from the state, which he said would be needed to bring a snow leopard into Kentucky.

Charlene Comer says she was taken by surprise when she spotted the leopard Wednesday. "Well, when I first saw it, I thought it was a dog. Then it raised up and I thought, no, that's not a dog, but that's one heck of a Tomcat!"

If you spot the snow leopard, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife urges you not to approach it. Instead, call the department immediately at (800) 25-ALERT.