One of the most compelling recent accounts of a putative jaguarundi in Alabama occurred at 9:30 AM, March 27 2007, when Barry P. Vittor and David J. Knowles, both trained wildlife biologists at the environmental consulting firm of Barry A. Vittor & Associates, observed what they believed to be a jaguarundi in southern Mobile County. The encounter was at 30.534°, -88.125° on the Kerr-McGee property just west of the south entry gate near the Theodore Industrial Canal. A few days after, both wrote separate accounts of what they saw. Above is Barry Vittor's sketch. A map and excerpts from their written accounts appear below, after the jump. Thanks to both David and Barry for permission to post this, and to Howard Horne for facilitating.
Barry P. Vittor
"...We pulled up to the south entry gate, unlocked it, and proceeded inside. I stopped the truck and as David prepared to get out of the vehicle to close and lock the gate behind us, I joked with him that there was a strange cat approaching us down the drive that we were parked on. We both agreed that it was one extremely strange, large housecat. A few seconds later and as the animal continued to approach to within roughly 100 feet, David said, "I don't think so; that must be some weird dog, it doesn't look right." I pointed out the walk (the classic cat gait) and we both were once again satisfied that it was, indeed, an unusual housecat. At that time David jumped out of the truck and went behind the vehicle to lock the gate. While he was working on the double locks, the cat took several more steps towards us, then turned to my right (its left) and faced the woods. It was at that time that I became convinced it was no housecat, as it had an unusually long tail and somewhat elongated head and face. It also seemed to have a long body, which I found strange. The animal stood still for 10-20 seconds, looking at the woods, then us, the woods, then us several times. The animal had a solid colored coat that I would describe as charcoal color and held its ears in an alert, upright position. At that time, I frantically called for Dave to look at the cat. He came back to the passenger side of the truck and said, "What the hell is that?! I took out my camera and raised it to shoot the picture, but the cat bounded off of the driveway and into the woods. Dave and I looked at each other, grabbed our cameras and jumped out of the truck in pursuit of the animal. I jogged down the road past where it leaped into the woods, and Dave stayed farther back. I entered the woods first and looked back to the point where the cat made its jump. It was crouching in a hunkered down position approximately 15 feet from the drive. Seeing me approach, it jumped up and bolted through the Cliftonia and Vitis and disappeared to the north before I could take a picture. This was the last visual contact that I made with the animal.
I ran after the cat, but it was no use. We both searched the woods for approximately 20 minutes after the cat ran off, but found no sigh of the animal. When we walked back to the truck, Dave went back down the road beyond the point where we lost sight of the cat. After about two minutes, he called out that he believed he spooked the cat again near the drive. If correct, the cat would have jumped the creek that ran south through the woods, doubling back on us as we searched the woods north of the drive. I told Dave to hide on the edge of the road while I went back to the woods to try and flush the cat out onto the road. Unfortunately, after approximately 5-10 minutes, I saw no sign of the animal, and we decided to stop the search. We searched for tracks, but the animal left no sign on the dry gravel and shell drive.
David and I are trained wildlife biologists who received our degrees from the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University, and work in the woods daily. Neither of us have ever seen anything like the subject animal before. We both believe the animal we spotted to be a jaguarundi based on the details of our sighting."
David J. Knowles
"...we had just pulled the truck through the gate and stopped to lock the gate behind us when we noticed what we thought at first to be a very large housecat walking towards us down the shell and gravel driveway that leads to Kerr-McGee's boat launch and industrial canal. Barry joked with me about how crazy-looking cat looked as it walked towards us on the road. I told Barry that it's too big to be a house cat and it walks in a slightly different manner. The cat came around the bend in the road and continued to approach us while the vehicle was still running and stopped approximately 100 feet from us and the vehicle. The animal remained motionless with its body and head directly in line with our line of sight for approximately 30 seconds near the edge of the road. I then stepped away from the truck to lock the gate behind me. As I came back to the truck Barry told me to hurry up and come look at the animal again. As I came back around the corner where the gate was and approached the truck, I saw the animal turned exactly perpendicular to my line of sight. I got a very good, unobstructed view of the animal. The cat-like animal was a dark charcoal color, had a long, thick tail equal to the length of its body, with a hook in it and curled up slightly towards the end. The animal had a slightly elongate snout, unlike that of a house cat, and its body was long (approximately 28 inches), and legs fairly short in comparison to its body length. the animal was approximately 20 pounds or slightly smaller. The animal bound[ed] off the road and into the woods as soon as I went to the back seat of the truck to get my camera. We gave chase and we lost sight of it shortly thereafter in the thick woods. I am quite positive that I scared the animal up again about 15 minutes later, again near the area we had first seen it. I could not, however, get a good second visual of the animal.
I am an environmental consultant with a degree in wildlife science from Auburn University and I have a very good understanding of what all the local mammals look and behave like. I have never seen anything like the animal I saw that Tuesday morning. Its body was too elongate to be a house cat, it was too tall and had legs too long to have been an otter, and it had a long and thick tail which rules out a bobcat. I believe after getting a very good, long look at the animal that it was in fact a jaguarundi. I believe the animal will possibly continue to return to the area [in] which we observed it. I witnessed what I believe to be game trails made by the animal, but could find no paw prints or other physical evidence of its existence."