Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

BioFortean Review, (November 2006, No. 1)

An Additional Account of an Alleged 'Long-tailed Wild Cat'

Chad Arment

In Cryptozoology: Science & Speculation (2004), I reviewed accounts of felines that were supposed to be long-tailed "wild cats" or "bobcats." Most of these accounts have come from Pennsylvania, so it was not particulaly surprising when I came across the following story, to see that it is from Ohio, just west of Cleveland.

What interests me about these reports is that they hint to an undercurrent of folklore that may be overlooked by even outdoors enthusiasts when given the "educated" plausible choice of feral housecats. Whatever the root cause of the folklore, there does appear to be a consistency in physical description (these aren't stray calicos or gingers) that produces the appearance of a truly wild small cat. This description, by the way, is not all that different from several recognized species of smaller felines with bushy ringed tails: the European wildcat, the Chinese mountain cat, the Andean mountain cat... (Maybe this should be called the Appalachian mountain cat.)

In any case, the account that follows is from the Elyria, Ohio, Chronicle-Telegram, January 14, 1966, in an outdoors column, Don Miller's Afloat and Afield. This states:

Ohio Division of Wildlife officials are interested in getting a look at pictures, and possibly the pelt, of a "wild cat" killed recently by Joseph Filipiak, 1060 Cleveland St., Grafton.

A number of persons are convinced it was a wildcat rather than a domestic cat which has turned wild—or gone feral, if you like $10 words.

To me, it wild cat is a bobcat or lynx, short tail and all. But two callers this week were shocked at my lack of knowledge of long-tailed wild cats.

In all honesty, I have to admit to never having seen one or knowing about them, although I've hunted and taken a few cracks at bobcat, lynx and cougar.

The obvious thing to do is turn to a biologist, preferably one versed in Ohio's game population. Don Thompson, game management supervisor of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, was my contact.

"It's been 15 or en years since we've had a verified bob cat in Ohio," Thompson said. "And in my terminology, wild cat is synonymous with bobcat or lynx. Use two words, and put quotation words around 'wild cat'," Thompson said.

Thompson joined me in one thought. He never heard of a long-tailed cat, either, which was a true wild cat.

"Mark it down as a feral domesticated cat," Thompson advised after a description, relayed to this corner by two persons who saw the cat, was given to him.

According to Filipiak's son, the cat had pointed ears and a tail similar to that of a raccoon. It was treed three times, squalled, and apparently was a young cat, probably aged around a year and a half.

Wells Mole Jr. also saw the cat, and described it as having about an 8-inch tail, quite furry but about half the size of that of a coon; big feet; fairly heavy; long, sharp claws; and having stripes all around the body.

The cat had the start of tufts on the ears, Mole said, and was of gray tiger coloration.

"Skip" Banks, Crook St., Grafton, took some movie footage of the cat, and maybe those can help lead to a positive identification, one way or the other.

To keep the record straight, we're not trying to belittle anyone or to identify with conviction anything we haven't seen. But I never heard of a long-tailed wildcat, and it was comforting to have a veteran biologist say the same.

And if that sharp-clawed character really was a bobcat a bit out of shape and with a long tail, it's the first in Ohio for many years.

I haven't yet been able to track down any remaining evidence for the animal, so there is no way to determine whether this story concerns a potential unknown species or an odd-looking feral domestic. I'm wondering if this region might supply further reports of a similar animal within the hunting-trapping community, so I will add it to my list of areas to explore as I have time.
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