News

Serval sightings prompt big cat stories

A wild cat may have roamed South Whidbey more than two decades ago, according to two local men.

Since the story of the serval, a small African cat, sighting appeared in The Record last week, two residents recalled seeing a large cat just south of Greenbank, more than 20 years ago.

The two separate sightings were just a few miles apart, near Honeymoon Lake and at the Rhododendron Park campground.

Was it a serval or some other type of wild cat that may have escaped from its owner? No one knows for sure.

However, both men said it was so unusual to see a wild cat on Whidbey Island that they never forgot it. And reading about the recent reports of a serval sighting jogged their memories of seeing another large cat.

Norm Kinyon, who lives at Honeymoon Lake, recalled seeing a wild cat in the woods near Honeymoon Bay.

“It was too big to be a domestic cat. I remember it because it was so unusual,” Kinyon said. “I am sure it was a wild cat of some kind.”

“At the time, we were so amazed to see a wild cat on Whidbey,”

Kinyon said.

Larry Whotton remembered exactly when and where he glimpsed a wild cat.

He was camping with his family at Rhododendron Park on Classic Road in 1982 when a large cat wandered in to their campground to snack on clams that Whotton had been cleaning at their picnic table.

Whotton, who now lives on Race Road just south of Coupeville, said he knew it wasn’t a domestic cat.

“It was big, easily twice as big as a house cat. When it sat on its haunches, it’s head came to the bottom of the picnic table. It had large ears,” he said.

Whotton said he had been cleaning clams but had dropped a few on the ground.

“I was sitting around the campfire late one night when the cat stalked up to our picnic table.

I grew up around bobcats and

I know this was some type of wild cat,” he said. “It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen on Whidbey Island.”

Fast forward 25 years. Two people reported seeing what they believe was a serval earlier this month in the Greenbank area.

Merritt Clifton of Clinton said he saw a serval early one morning near Greenbank. Freeland resident Debra Walen spotted a serval on her way to the Keystone/Port Townsend ferry.

A serval is a native African cat that weighs 25 to 40 pounds and is noted for its small head and large oval shaped ears. A serval’s diet consists primarily of rodents, rabbits, birds, reptiles, frogs and insects. The big cats usually live as long as 20 years, according to the African Wildlife Foundation Website.

Gayle Saran can be reached at 221-5300 or gsaran@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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