Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 25th, 2007
Reports of mystery cats appearing to be maned, looking like “African lions,” constitute an entire chapter in Mysterious America and much of my attention down through the years.
The sightings are infrequent, but when they occcur they tend to be dramatic and clear. Historically, they go back further than the “circus train” wreck explanation is able to deal with them, and you will see today, continue to modern times.
Big Roaring Creek, West Virginia – The king of the jungle just might be playing king of the mountain in a remote area of Greenbrier County.
While bow hunting last Wednesday on his 40-acre plot of land at Big Roaring Creek at the foot of Cold Knob, Jim Shortridge of Frankford says he watched a full-grown male African lion, complete with a four-foot-long tail, pace around his hunting shanty for about 40 minutes before running off into the woods.
Shortridge was at the homemade hunting shanty before daybreak, at about 5:30 a.m., and was in the process of transferring his gear to the building when he first heard the animal. His only weapon at the time was a bow that was still in his truck a few feet away.
“He started growling at me and I hollered and it sounded like he was running away,” Shortridge said. “So I put my lunch box down and went back to my truck and got my bow.”
“He started growling again,” Shortridge continued, “and when I went back in the building and sat down, I turned the light on him. He was about 10 to 15 yards away, and he kept walking back and forth and was huffing and puffing at me.”
Shortridge, 72, a lifelong hunter of bear, deer, turkey and other wildlife, estimated the animal weighed between 250 to 300 pounds. With only a small flashlight to shine on the animal, Shortridge said it was hard to determine whether it had a full mane. But he will never forget the sounds the big cat was making.
“He was doing medium growls, but they kept getting louder and louder,” Shortridge said. “I’m not afraid of anything, but I’m a lot more cautious now and I don’t get out of the truck until daylight, and now I take my rifle with me.”
Shortridge has hunted the area twice since then, but hasn’t seen the lion, or much of anything else around.
“I know he’s around because there aren’t any deer here anymore,” he said. “I called the Division of Natural Resources and they told me I was the second call they had received about the lion.”
DNR Conservation Officer Gabe Frangos said there had been no documented evidence of a lion’s presence in the area, but he had spoken to Shortridge about his unusual experience.
“If it’s a mountain lion, then it’s a protected species in this state,” Frangos said. “But if it’s an African lion or an exotic animal, then our department doesn’t have any jurisdiction.”
On Tuesday, Shortridge escorted The Register-Herald, along with his daughter, Kathy Hunter, and officials from the Tiger Mountain Refuge in Rainelle to the area where he last saw the animal. Tiger Mountain Refuge is a nonprofit organization that locates and rescues exotic animals and provides them with safe, permanent homes.
Owner John Forga wants to capture the lion and take it to his wildlife sanctuary in Nicholas County, which is already home to more than 60 animals, including a grown tiger and “Alex,” a 600-pound African lion. Forga said the lion they are searching for was probably an abandoned pet.
“If it was a pet, then chances are the lion was declawed and defanged,” Forga said during the trip to Big Roaring Creek. “The chances of it surviving in the wild are slim to none, and it may be helpless.”
After turning off U.S. 219, Shortridge traveled about 13 miles deep into the woods before coming to his property. There, Shortridge and Forga looked for signs of the animal, but no tracks were found because of a deep layer of freshly fallen leaves. Forga then dumped about 20 pounds of raw chicken onto the ground and sprayed a bottle of cologne on surrounding trees.
“If the lion is here, it will need nutrients and the chicken will provide that, plus it will give an indication that someone wants to feed it, so it will come back,” Forga said. “The cologne is used as a curiosity scent to attract the lion. The lion hopefully will claw the trees that have been scented and give us an indication he’s here.
“The sound to listen for would be like a cow bawling. If the lion is here, it probably would not make it through the winter.”
Forga said if he finds evidence the lion is in the area, he will come back with a team and devote resources to capturing the cat and take it back to Nicholas County.
But others may be searching for the lion as well, some without the same altruistic motives as Forga. The Mountain Messenger newspaper first broke the story about the lion on Saturday, and since then, word has traveled fast throughout the county.
“It’s here, believe you me. I am a Christian man and I saw it,” Shortridge said. “Now there’s talk that a group of hunters may be trying to hunt the lion and kill it.”Hunter says lion on the prowl in Greenbrier by Christian Giggenbach, October 24, 2007, The Register-Herald in Beckley, W.Va.
This story was passed along by Helen McGinnis, whom I thank.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.