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Searchers Set Traps, Hoping to Catch Lion-like Animal in Milwaukee

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Marti Mikkelson
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Several people say they've spotted the animal near Lincoln Creek Parkway.

The consensus is that Milwaukee's elusive animal is someone’s exotic pet, according to Karen Sparapani, executive director of the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission.

Her goal is to capture, not kill the big cat several people have reported seeing on the city's north side since last week.

Sparapani says such cases are not unusual. "In communities all over the country, there are people with exotic animals that get in over their head," she says. "Most of the exotics we deal with here in Milwaukee are reptiles, crocodiles, big boa constrictors, but big cats are a problem in areas, especially in a state like ours, where there are no regulations or rules on how to keep the animals, and they are easy to import."

She says, generally, owners who realize they can can no longer care for their wild pets summon law enforcement to remove them.

The animal's behavior in Milwaukee is what has led Sparapani to conclude that it is someone's exotic pet. It does not seem to have moved much.

"They are behaving like an animal that has not lived in the wild. It's setting up in one area, it's hiding, it's in an area where it can hide well. The brush is there is super thick; there is fresh running water," Sparapani says.

There is also abundant wildlife in the ravine, such as coyotes, ducks and rabbits.

As for the traps Sparapani's group is providing, she describes them as large cages with a door that will shut once an animal enters. They are live traps and will not harm wildlife, and workers can remove any other animals that become trapped. The bait is human food because Sparapani believes the animal has probably been treated as a big house cat and is used to being fed by humans.

So far, the only casualty of the lion saga in Milwaukee is the dog a frightened person shot in the leg.

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