A state wildlife official is continuing the investigation into possible mountain lion sightings in LaFayette.
Josh Aldridge, a wildlife technician with the Department of Natural Resources, met with North LaFayette Elementary School principal Sandra Morrison early Thursday morning, Aug. 4, at the school.
Early Wednesday morning, Aug. 4, Morrison reported seeing a wild animal she believed to be a mountain lion walking in front of the school, in the vehicle lane where students are dropped off and picked up.
Morrison told police the animal was a yellowish-tan color and bigger than a house cat, but smaller than a German shepherd and described the tail of the animal to be as long as her forearm.
Aldridge said he investigated the area Thursday morning, but the ground was too dry to find any evidence of a paw print.
“We are trying to stay on top of this,” Aldridge said. “We are working on trying to figure this out. We would love to give a definitive answer, but cannot at this time.”
Aldridge said he believes Morrison did in fact see something, but isn’t convinced it was a mountain lion based on the description she gave.
There was no surveillance footage available, as the cameras at the school were not fixed on the car lane where Morrison spotted the animal.
Aldridge said this could be a case of mistaken identity, as these sightings occur throughout the United States. But that doesn’t mean DNR isn’t taking the matter seriously, he said.
Aldridge also investigated the area where LaFayette High School teacher Cody Lee said he spotted two mountain lions at Warthen Street in LaFayette .
Lee said he spotted the mountain lions near the intersection of Warthen Street, Round Pond Road and the bypass (U.S. Highway 27 Business) about 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 26.
Aldridge said he was unable to find any solid paw prints around the area of Lee’s sighting as well due to the dry conditions of the ground.
Aldridge said DNR has received various trail camera pictures of what people feel might be the elusive animal, but none of the photographs are tangible enough evidence to determine if it is in fact a mountain lion rather than a large cat or a bobcat.
Morrison told Aldridge she is using this incident to educate the students at North LaFayette Elementary on wildlife and how to approach wildlife in general, including domesticated animals as well.
Aldridge does not discount what Morrison or Lee witnessed, but isn’t 100 percent certain on what the two educators saw.
DNR regional supervisor and game manager Chuck Waters said DNR is taking the matter seriously and working with local law enforcement, especially LaFayette police Capt. Stacey Meeks, on any and all reported sightings.
Waters said DNR is in regular contact with Meeks, who is keeping DNR informed of each sighting reported to law enforcement.
The DNR will continue to follow up with witnesses in the area, but do not have plans to set traps for the animal yet, until more tangible evidence is provided.
As of now, the plan is to continue to gather information and set out trail cameras, Waters said.