“African Lion” Reported In North Carolina

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 1st, 2008


An African lion, female, directly above.


Lioness on a road, by Dick & Monique Smit, Henk & Liz Egbers, S.A.


An American panther, puma, cougar or mountain lion, gender unknown, directly above.


Lioness on the road at Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park.


Florida Panther on the Loop Road.

Last night, July 31, 2008, at about 9:53 p.m., a member who calls himself “rantingredneck,” on The Firing Line, which subtitles itself “The leading online forum for firearms,” mentioned a new sighting of an African lioness (example, shown top above):

A couple of days ago a fellow who works for me informed me that his aunt saw a lion in their hay field. Not a mountain lion, mind you (which technically we’re not supposed to have here in NC [North Carolina, USA] anyway), but a full on female African lion. Or lioness if you prefer.

They called the county sheriff’s office and a deputy came out to take a report, by which time the animal had moved along. While the deputy was taking the report, however, another call came in from a property down the road of the same thing. Now this would sound impossible were it not for the fact that there is a sanctuary for lions, tigers, and other exotic animals only a few miles from this property. Did one escape? Who knows?

This has apparently not been reported in the news as I can’t find any story on it anywhere and I’ve searched. No further information from my friend yet on whether the animal has been seen again or whether any investigation has taken place regarding the sanctuary and taking a head count. From what I hear the sanctuary does good work, but some residents have been a little uneasy about having it in their backyard for obvious reasons.

If there is anything else reported or if anyone runs across a story of lions on the loose in Caswell Co. NC, please post a link.

The freaky thing is, I routinely hunt that property, including bowhunting. Don’t think I’ll be hunting there this season until firearms season comes in. Can’t carry a pistol while bowhunting or muzzleloader hunting.

So, what .357 mag load for lions????

I have reproduced most of the genteman’s posting, for commentary and research purposes, as this is quite interesting.

The first question that came to mind was, how does the eyewitness positively know this was so clearly a female African lion versus a puma/cougar?

I have other questions, but I stop there for now, and open the floor to comments or other North Carolina reports coming in of mystery cats.

[Please note, feel free to add your comments only about the report and these types of Mystery Cat accounts, not about the hunting, not on the nature of firearms, no jokes about the name the guy calls himself, and avoid demeaning references to people from the South. If you wish to see your comments here, please limit yourself to a discussion about the cryptid nature of “African lions” in America. Thank you.]

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
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.

18 Responses to ““African Lion” Reported In North Carolina”

  1. Valen responds:

    Wonderful. I use to live near there and my parents still do. I am forwarding this to a local news outlet to see if they have anything else on it.

  2. Matt_J responds:

    Is there another big cat refuge that he is talking about? I know there is one down in Chatham County that several of my friends have been to. I didn’t know there was one to the north.

    A couple of years ago, there was a private zoo in Wake Forest, which is north of Raleigh and south and east of Caswell County, that went out of business. I know that they had lions there. I’m not sure what happened to the animals at the zoo. I would doubt that they were just released into the wild, but I guess it’s best to keep all options open.

    As you might suspect, Caswell County is very rural. I’ve heard talk of bears and wild boars up there. I’ve been through it once, and it’s a pretty drive–very hilly, very wooded. I can definitely see a) a big cat finding refuge out here and b) supporting more than enough food for a big cat or cats.

  3. hlw responds:

    Comforting to think that closing zoos or animal reserves dont release animals into the wilds when they close. I’d like to not leave that possibility open. One does get tired of hearing the escaped or released pet theory brought up again. Has ANY cryptid EVER been proven to be an escapee?
    As a witness to a Male African Lion in the 50’s I get tired of hearing ideas more improbable than the sighting itself.

  4. bill green responds:

    this is a very informative new article about a african lion being seen in nc. wow first colorado now in north carolina that a lion was spotted. this is so amazing & kinda scarey indeed which states are next i wonder… thanks bill green

  5. kittenz responds:

    The third photo, the b & w one, does not look like a puma, it looks like an African lion – looks like it has fawn-colored lion-like spots and a tuft on the tail.

  6. kittenz responds:

    I have no doubt that there are pumas in North Carolina – especially western North Carolina in the mountains. That is wild, beautiful country down there and wonderful habitat for pumas. For lions? Not so much, if you consider lions to be animals of a savannah-type terrain, but lions are very adaptable and one could probably survive for quite some time in any wilderness area, provided it could find food. With a burgeoning deer population in the East, not to mention feral pigs, domestic livestock, and dogs, a lion could probably find enough food to survive.

  7. Valen responds:

    I forwarded this story to a local television station. They said they checked it out and this is what they sent me (copied straight from the reply I got):

    “I’ve spoken with several officials in Caswell County and this didn’t happen.

    They check out the call like always and found no lose Lion.”

    So, here you go. I hope this wasn’t a prank. Regardless if it was, like others have said, I am thoroughly convinced there are mountains lions once again in NC.

  8. cryptidsrus responds:

    Good story.

    Yeah, the fact there is a wildlife reserve does give one pause for concern. Hopefully there will be no more “sightings.”

  9. rantingredneck responds:

    Wow, I didn’t expect to be quoted on another site :).

    I am the original author of the above quoted post at thefiringline.com where I am an active member. I post under the same “nomme de internet” at thehighroad.org and carolinashootersforum.com among others.

    The above account is true as I heard it. The fellow who told me about it is a long time employee and a trusted source.

    There is a preserve of sorts for lions, tigers and other exotic animals in Caswell county. I believe it is the same preserve that used to be in Chatham County, but am not completely sure about that.

    A fellow member of thefiringline now has posted that he heard this reported on WXII, a local TV station. I personally have not seen anything in the local news or in any online news source. In searching for news on this I find myself quoted here. Interesting……:)

  10. Richard888 responds:

    Interesting story. I believe that a female African (American?) lion would make a very different visual impression from a cougar. That applies even if the lion is out of place (seen in the habitat range of the cougar) and the observer is untrained. To confuse a lion for a cougar is somewhat equivalent to confusing a grey fox for a grey wolf, IMHO.

  11. HOOSIERHUNTER responds:

    Very interesting–makes me wonder how much else is not being reported out there. That the news said they heard nothing about it doesn’t surprise me. No one is anxious to publicize a story of a loose lion unless they have no choice. If, in fact, it did escape from a preserve then hopefully those people are able to capture it and that may be why its not being reported–to keep gawkers out of harm’s way and keep people in the area from panicking and making the matter worse. Of course I do have to say as a citizen I’d rather know just so I could keep a watch. Children and pets might make a tempting target for a hungry lion.

  12. Spinach Village responds:

    well, this is interesting..

  13. Lightning Orb responds:

    Even if the thing was just a mountain lion, people there would probably report it as an African lion anyway, if only because of the big cat sanctuary; it seems like people believe there to be cougars there, but they probably wouldn’t report them as that if the police were insistant they didn’t exist in the area. Strange though how in this case African lion could be considered more acceptable than good old American cougar…

  14. STS responds:

    There have been reports of big cats in the Richmond/Montgomery area for several years. Carcasses found torn to shreds. Several sightings by pretty reputable people. You never know what you might find out there.

  15. archer1945 responds:

    Wasn’t there a report earlier this year or late last year about someone sighting a big cat that wasn’t a cougar somewhere in the Carolinas?

  16. PhotoExpert responds:

    Interesting story! There are not enough solid or credible eyewitness accounts of sightings that would lead me to speculation, as to what it is or is not. I think we need a few more credible sightings to make a determination on this one.

  17. Matt_J responds:


    I didn’t know they moved the big cat preserve from Chatham county. When I heard something about a big cat preserve, I thought of them, first, but then I wondered how a lion would make from Chatham up to Caswell without being seen as there’s a lot of population and I-40 in between.
    Thanks for that update. It makes a little more sense now, from the “escapee” standpoint.

  18. rantingredneck responds:

    Where’s the Lion?
    By Roselee Papandrea / Times-News
    June 13, 2009 – 6:54PM
    J.B. Ross isn’t an animal expert.

    But the 76-year-old farmer from the Pleasant Grove area knows what he saw on the afternoon of June 4. At the time, he was raking hay at Cal Jeffries Farms on Pleasant Grove School Road when he claims he saw a female lion walking in the middle of the 175-acre farm plush with woods.

    “She was walking slow in a straight line,” Ross said.

    When the lion got about midfield, it turned her head toward Ross.

    “She didn’t turn her body, just her head,” he said. “I was about 200 feet from it, and I decided to take a U-turn and get in my truck.”

    The sight of the lion definitely scared Ross a bit, he admitted.

    “But I wasn’t too scared when I got that shotgun,” he joked.

    Within 30 minutes, Ross saw the lion another two times. At one point, it was drinking from a man-made pond. It was brown and slick with a long tail that was dragging the ground, he said.

    “Poor as a snake,” he said. “I could count every rib.”

    Shortly after the third sighting, Alamance County animal control officers were searching for the lion, too. Ross didn’t call them. Another farmer, who was raking hay on nearby farm, also claimed he spotted the lion drinking from a pond.

    Sgt. Kurt Lankford, the county animal officer who responded, said he received a call mid-afternoon the same day about a lion sighting on another farm on Pleasant Grove Union School Road, not too far from Pleasant Grove Elementary School.

    A farmer was mowing hay when he spotted what he described as a “brown lion.”

    “Of course, when we got up there, there was nothing there,” Lankford said. “It ran into a more heavily wooded area.”

    Animal control checked the area and spoke with a school resource officer from the elementary school so that area could be searched.

    “We didn’t find anything,” Lankford said.

    Lankford is careful to label the call as “an alleged lion sighting,” he said.

    “We have no evidence to prove where and if we do have anything,” he said.

    Lankford contacted Jeff Brown, an officer with the N.C. Wildlife Commission.

    “Lions are just a little bit out of my day-to-day realm,” Lankford said. “We can do something in an emergency instance but tracking and removal will fall to state wildlife or some zoological factions.”

    Lankford also contacted Conservators’ Center Inc. in southern Caswell County. The non-profit center rescues wildlife in need, including lions. He said none of the wildlife that lives at the center is missing.

    Cal Jeffries, who owns the farm where Ross was raking, said he thought people in the community should know that at least two people say they spotted a lion in that area.

    “I think it’s worth a story just so the local population can know that there was a lion up there by Pleasant Grove school,” Jeffries said.

    Animal control has received several calls from concerned residents who live in that area, but none of the callers actually saw a lion. He said there is some second-hand information that someone spotted unusual tracks, but there haven’t been any reports of any livestock attacks or other evidence related to a wild animal looking for food.

    “We don’t know what he’s seen,” Lankford said, referring to the farmer who reported the lion. Lankford hasn’t spoken to Ross. “We don’t know if he’s seen a child with a bad haircut. We don’t know because we haven’t seen anything.”

    Brown has his doubts.

    “We hear stuff like this all the time,” he said. “People say they see lions and black panthers. There have been no signs. There has been no proof or picture or one hit by a car. It’s just something we hear a lot. I’m not sure what the valid proof of this is. I haven’t seen any.”

    The odds of wildlife escaping from the Conservators’ Center is minimal, Brown said.

    “That place is topnotch,” Brown said. “For something to escape from there would be unlikely and if that happened, they would notify us immediately.”

    Brown thinks the farmers saw some other animal. Ross is adamant about what he saw.

    “I seen him three times,” he said. “I’d bet my life on it. It was a lion. I never seen a dog like that. I never seen a big cat like that.”

    Seems as if there’s been another couple of sightings. This area is roughly 10 miles or so as the crow flies from the property belonging to my employee’s family.

    Link to story here: http://www.thetimesnews.com/news/lion-25828-ross-lankford.html#slComments

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