The call to police in Aiken, South Carolina seemed wacky but plausible: a man who worked at a pet store called to report a burglary. He said that a 100-pound mountain lion worth $35,000 was missing from the store, and had either been stolen during a burglary or had taken advantage of the opportunity to escape. Turns out there was no missing mountain lion. There was no mountain lion at all.
Local law enforcement had never received a call before that a mountain lion wearing a dog harness might be roaming the area. They sent out animal control officers and called in state wildlife officials for help in finding the animal. They estimate that the bill for wasted staff time, including animal control officers called in on a weekend, totals more than $3,000.
A fellow employee at the pet store speculated that the colleague who made the false report may have thought that a large domestic cat in the store escaped or was stolen during the burglary, and misspoken while talking to police. If the police are correct, he told them that the escaped “mountain lion” weighed 100 pounds. That would be a very large cat.
It’s still not clear exactly what happened at the store–there are 15 screws missing from a wall, and yesterday there was a gas leak at the pet store. What we do know is that no mountain lion escaped, and the store never had a $35,000 mountain lion for sale or just hanging around. The employee who reported the burglary has been arrested, and everyone seems kind of confused about the entire situation.