South Whidbey’s suspected serval has once again been spotted by a passerby.
It’s been awhile since someone has seen the elusive cat-like creature; the last reported sighting was roughly four years ago.
Merritt Clifton of Clinton thought he was seeing a coyote on the hunt early one morning recently. But upon closer inspection, Clifton realized it was a wild cat, probably a serval.
Clifton, publisher of “Animal People,” a newspaper dedicated to coverage of animal protection and welfare worldwide, said he saw the feline at close range last week near Greenbank.
“About 6:10 a.m., I saw the serval chasing a couple of rabbits, more stalking them, to get closer, than in hot pursuit. And it ran right in front of my car. I was maybe 20 feet away,” Clifton said.
“The serval then stopped on the far side of the road and briefly stared back at me before resuming the quest for breakfast,” he said.
Clifton said it looked like it weighed about 30 pounds.
“My first thought was ‘coyote’ when the animal came out of the brush. When it came into my headlights, I saw that it was the serval instead,” he said.
Since 2000, there have been reported sightings of a serval on the South End and there have been various Record updates over the years.
In July 2000, a pet serval escaped from its owner’s home in Bayview. In an Aug. 6, 2003 Record story, Tiffany Cartier said her pet serval named Cujo had escaped. She also said it had been de-clawed and probably wouldn’t survive in the wild.
However, Clifton said a serval would have no real natural enemies here.
“Coyotes would tend to keep their distance,” he said.
“In nature, cats are top predators and dogs can be on the menu. Dogs are primarily scavengers, who often depend on cats to kill the animals whose carcasses the dogs will then consume,” he said.
On Whidbey, a serval would find plenty to eat, Clifton said.
“The serval would mostly hunt rabbits — and Whidbey Island has abundant rabbits year-round,” he said.
Gayle Saran can be reached at 221-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.