Some bait has been put out for an African lion in part of Greenbrier County, as officials work to confirm the lion is actually there.
A hunter spotted the lion in the Big Roaring Creek area earlier this month and reported it. At this point, there is no independent confirmation of that spotting.
“We still can’t confirm or deny (it),” said Carol Forga, with the Tiger Mountain Refuge in Greenbrier County. “We have sent some of our staff out there to the location.”
She and her husband have been running the non-profit refuge for exotic animals for the past six years, and she said there are a lot of reasons why the full grown lion could be out there, if it’s out there.
“It is possible that a private owner has gotten one as a pet when it was a baby or as an adult, it just depends, and has had it and the situation’s come across that they can no longer provide for it. They’ve panicked, they’ve turned it loose or they’ve had it in a containment center that it has actually gotten loose from. We’re not sure at this point,” Forga said on Thursday’s MetroNews Talkline.
Forga said the abandonment of exotic animals is not uncommon. Many of the animals at the Tiger Mountain Refuge were brought to Greenbrier County after being found, wandering loose, in other parts of West Virginia.
She said there are a number of ways to acquire a lion: “They can actually bring them in from out of state. There are different exotic markets that are out there that they can actually go to and acquire one from. There’s a black market that’s out there where these animals are available.”
Right now, Forga said, her concern is finding the lion and retrieving it using the equipment they have. She said the lion’s survival chances depend on a number of factors.
“If he was from a facility and escaped and, nobody knows where that facility is or anything, it depends on if he has his claws. It depends on the condition that he is actually in,” she said. “They can acclimate to different temperatures, so, as far as the winter temperatures, that’s not going to be a factor. But if he’s declawed and his canines are removed, the hunting capabilities, it’s made it very difficult for him.”