Pa. officials: Exotic cat killed near Philly

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - November 26, 2008 State game officials said they were able to determine the animal's owner and were investigating whether he or she held the necessary permits./p>

George Heim, caretaker of Garrett Mill Farm near Malvern, said Wednesday that a farm worker notified him around dinnertime Tuesday that an animal thought to be a bobcat had been locked inside the farm's 25-bird chicken coop./p>

"It had lunged at him and hissed at him," Heim told The Associated Press. "He got scared and didn't know what to do." The birds "were squawking bloody murder."/p>

Heim said he called a friend who works for the state game commission and was told he could shoot the animal. The game commission confirmed his account and said Heim was within his legal rights to protect his chickens./p>

Heim shot the serval dead inside the barn with a .22-caliber rifle, but his heart sank when he realized the cat was wearing a collar inscribed with a phone number. He does not know the owner's name and the game commission did not release it./p>

"I was sad for the animal, then I was angry at the people for allowing it to be out," Heim said./p>

Heim said authorities told him they had already been informed that the serval was loose for about the past six weeks./p>

He said the serval killed at least four chickens and had begun eating one of them. Two other guinea fowl are missing, but Heim said he was not sure whether the serval was to blame./p>

Servals are found in many parts of the African continent. They are carnivorous and typically weigh about 35 pounds./p>

Servals have been captured over the past year in Atlanta, Seattle and Battle Creek, Mich. One was shot and killed in Kansas City, Mo., and another was seized from a woman in Illinois. In May, a serval and a bear escaped from an animal sanctuary in Muskegon, Mich./p>

Heim said he at first thought the animal might be an ocelot and had never heard of servals before Wednesday, when state game officials retrieved the carcass./p>

Chickens, cattle and sheep are raised on the farm, which is located about 20 miles west of Philadelphia within a pocket of preserved land ringed by sprawling suburbs./p>


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