Maned Lion Prowls West Virginia

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 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.

17 Responses to “Maned Lion Prowls West Virginia”

  1. scotsman responds:

    At 300 pounds its not a terribly big lion, if it is an african lion its an adolescent. Either that or its a grossly over weight mountain lion, still doesn’t explain the hint of a mane on the lion tho if it is an overweight mountain lion.


  2. squatchwatcher responds:

    I’m gonna go with the abandoned/escaped pet theory. What kind of laws are in force in that part of the country? Probably some irresponsible hillbilly who thought it was cool to have a lion but when it got to big for their home they let it go or abandoned it in the wilderness thinking it could survive on its own. If this is the case, how do morons get away with stuff like this?

  3. Saint Vitus responds:

    It probably is not a mountain lion, mountain lions cannot roar like a true lion, they have no mane, and dont really look much like an African lion anyway (the mountain lion or cougar is more closely related to a house cat).

  4. bill green responds:

    hey loren, wow very interesting new article about a lion on the prowl in west virginia. thanks bill 🙂

  5. planettom responds:

    I agree with Scotsman, that weight range of 250-300lbs is quite small for an African Lion. Maybe he meant kilos? I tell ya, if I was only 10-15 yards away from a lion, no matter what size, I would need a new pair of pants! 🙂 maybe this poor thing can be sited, confirmed and possibly trapped and put in a proper home. Amazing story.

  6. scotsman responds:

    squatchwatcher – As far as i know there were laws put in place quite a while back for owning exotic pets like lions and pumas etc. Which meant that they weren’t legally allowed to own them anymore. But as we all know animal trade on the black market is huge buisness and it still goes on today. Back in the 60’s and 70’s owning large cats was an avid past-time for the rich and wealthy, then when the laws were passed instead of giving them over to the authorities they set them free, and thats why the UK has so many sightings even now of large black cats roaming the moors of southern england and scotland. So I would agree that if it is an african lion (however the weight seems to contradict this, even though it is an estimate) it must be a rejected pet from a very wealthy person. Because back when you were allowed to own one they were expensive well into the 100’s of thousands, but now because of inflation and the fact that it is highly illegal it would cost millions.

  7. DARHOP responds:

    250-300 lbs. pretty small for a African Lion isn’t it.

  8. mystery_man responds:

    I was a little surprised at the estimated weight too. I suppose that while under stress and seeing something one did not expect to see, there could be a misjudgment in that regard. It doesn’t seem to me that the witness was in any condition to make a spot on accurate appraisal of the creature’s weight and people can be terrible at judging size or weight anyway. Adult male lions are typically anywhere from 330 to 500 pounds,(except the 600 pound bruiser “Alex” mentioned in the article. Jeez, that’s a big lion!) so under duress a small one could be roughly estimated at 300 pounds. Then again, the witness was a hunter and so I’d think he might possibly be more skillful at guessing a creature’s weight even though he may have no experience with lion’s. It also seems to me that most misjudgments by startled people EXAGGERATE the weight of what they see. Hmmmm. I guess we’ll just have to see what else comes up concerning these sightings.

  9. sschaper responds:

    This did used to be a free country, and taming animals is what humans do. My aunt had pet racoons when she was a girl.

    I was going to say maybe there is a very rare recessive gene in cougars that can produce mane. That they are more closely related to housecats might put that down, but the cats all seem to be able to interbreed, if not directly, then through an intermediary (due to size, not genes) so maybe it is possible.

  10. Tabbercat8 responds:

    Scotsman, I believe you are probably right in most cases the price for a exotic cat might be expensive. But about 8 years ago a 17 year old girl in BC, Canada purchased a female african lion at an auction for $50. That lion ended up in a Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario. So there are ways people can get the hands on exotics inexpensively. It would be a shame if this is what happened to this animal. The girl realized she couldn’t afford to get it declawed at a $100 per claw and tried to get a zoo to take it and no body wanted a female lion. It was by luck that the sanctuary was able to take it in.

  11. scotsman responds:

    $50 you say eh?? Thats very impressive! Not that I am condoning the buying and seeling of wild exotic animals but I would love to know how that whole auction actually came about. I was more thinking on the range of trapping it in the wild, getting it through customs by bribing people (as it is usually done) and transporting it to the required destination from there. All those things usually need to paid for and usually not your run of the mill average Joe can afford it.

  12. Jeremy_Wells responds:


    As Scotsman notes, collecting exotic animals is generally a past time of wealthy elites, and THIS hillbilly resents the derisive tone of your post.

  13. halcyonicWV responds:

    Allow me to second Jeremy’s comment.

    Anyway, very interesting, but I think it more likely the witness may have erred in both identification and estimation. Although, I suppose it’s possible if it is an escaped/abandoned animal.

  14. squatchwatcher responds:

    Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have used the term “hillbilly”. My apologies to anyone I may have offended by this. What I meant was that you don’t have to be a genius to be rich, and there are a lot of ignorant, dumb wealthy people out there.

  15. Alligator responds:

    Several years ago to my surprise, I discovered that a rural neighbor less than four miles from my house had a pair of full grown Bengal tigers, fully equipped. This guy also had quite a collection of motorized toys like Porsches, classic Mustangs, etc. I guess he was bored with those.

    Another guy up on the Missouri/Iowa line a few years back had his own private zoo that included some big cats. He got raided as a suspected drug kingpin and most of his critters confiscated. He died of a heart attack or something like that before his case went to trial.

    For some reason, many of the big time druggies seem to get into exotic pets. Some of them relocate to rural areas I guess they suppose the seclusion gives them a greater measure of security ie. detection time if the cops are on the way in. Of course, these guys are loaded and already doing stuff that will put them away a long time. So they have the connections, money and lack of concern that would make it easy for them to pick up these kinds of pets.

    They’ve found full grown lions, etc. in New York City apartments. Often the pets of some gang kingpin. I guess they see some kind of association with the power of big cats?

  16. scotsman responds:

    Yeah Alligator –

    I would agree with the power related connection. There was a lady in the south of England who owned big cats way back in the 60’s and 70’s but she had so many the police and wildlife authorities actually didn’t have an accurate count of how many there was. So when it came time to confiscate them from her she admitted to releasing them into the moors, they were caught and one was killed I think, the only thing is that is where most of the myths and sightings stem from because no-one knows for sure just how many she let go! But I think she just had an affinity for large cats, because she hand fed them and stuff. She had lions, tigers, pumas, panthers, jaguars all sorts.

    Ofcourse she was your classic British eccentric, haha 😀

  17. Dinahe responds:

    How are you so sure that this is even a real lion? My friend, a REAL shapeshifter (yes, they exist) who lives in that area is a lion. He’s just a regular shifter going out to get a meal, and YOU PEOPLE ARE HARASSING HIM!! “Let’s catch it in bear traps” they say, “Lets shoot it” they say. My friend has ALREADY BEEN SHOT! Would you like to be shot when you went out for a stroll?! If you can prove that it escaped from someone, fine. If anything, put a radio collar on him. If you find the collar has been taken off, which can only be done with human hands, then he is a shifter. At that point he is to be LEFT ALONE. (He is a small lion because you generally stay near your human weight.) Again, he is a person. Do NOT harm him!

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