State authorities say the cougar a Newnan, Ga., man killed Sunday near West Point Lake in Troup County had characteristics of an animal that had been held captive.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources said the 140-pound male cat was 88 inches long from its nose to the tip of its tail. The animal was well fed and fat, and had a "very low parasite level," indications it had not been feeding on wild game. Also the pads on the cougar's paws were scuffed in a manner common to animals that have been on concrete rather than roaming the woods.
Those findings came from the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Ga., which said the evidence is "consistent with a captive, reared cougar, not a wild specimen."
State DNR officials are emphasizing this because they occasionally get reports from residents who spot what appear to be wild cougars. DNR biologists maintain no wild population of the Eastern cougar or mountain lion remains in Georgia, and the nearest viable population is in southern Florida, where the big cat's called the Florida panther.
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The cougar killed Sunday morning was shot by deer hunter David Adams, who was perched in a tree stand on U.S. Corps of Engineers land near the community of Abbottsford, west of LaGrange on the Alabama border, the DNR said.
As it no longer is classified as a native species in Georgia, the cougar is not considered threatened or endangered here, so the hunter violated no regulations by shooting the animal.
Wildlife biologists examining the carcass found it had not been collared or tagged and had no tattoos, nor had it been declawed.
DNR said no one in the area had a permit to keep a cougar, and the nearest facilities allowed to have the cats are in the Alabama counties of Macon and Elmore, where the permit-holders have accounted for their cats. So the cat killed Sunday likely was released or escaped from someone who had it illegally.