Milwaukee's mystery cat: Could there really be a lion in Wisconsin?

Reported sightings of a lion-like creature roaming the streets of Milwaukee have alarmed some residents, amused others, and intrigued all. 

A week after its initial sighting, the search for a mysterious creature dubbed the Milwaukee Lion continues.

Since the first sighting of a lion-like animal roaming a residential neighborhood in Milwaukee, on July 20, the elusive big cat has been spotted all around the city and earned local celebrity status. Police say they have investigated dozens of reported sightings and one grainy cell phone video, but have yet to catch the animal. 

The mysterious lion has become a source of amusement for many local residents. It even has a Twitter handle, @milwaukee_lion, with more than 4,000 followers at press time. 

But not all Milwaukeeans are laughing.

“I’m taking it very seriously,” said one resident, Jackie Bradley, to The New York Times. When a sighting was reported Monday in her quiet residential neighborhood, she forbade her three grandchildren to play outside and brought her dog inside the house. “I have a six-foot fence, but I’m worried a lion could jump the fence.”

Last week, one man accidentally shot a large cream-colored pit bull in his neighborhood when he mistook it for the lion. The dog is expected to make a recovery. 

The search intensified over the weekend, as law enforcement and Department of Natural Resources staff armed with rifles and tranquilizer guns searched a ravine and the surrounding neighborhood after the animal was spotted by multiple citizens and police officers. The extensive search produced no results. 

The creature’s elusiveness has led some Milwaukeeans to doubt its existence, garnering comparisons to Bigfoot.

“A lion is at the top of the food chain. It’s been a week, and it hasn’t eaten yet?” said resident Michael Chachere to the Times, pointing out that there should have been sightings of dead animals or even missing children. “I think it’s a waste of city taxpayers’ money, to be honest.”

On Wednesday, animal control workers set non-lethal traps baited with human food in hopes of attracting the lion, which Karen Sparapani, executive director of the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission, says is likely an escaped or released exotic pet. If caught, the animal will be sent to an animal sanctuary in Sharon, Wisconsin.

This report includes materials from the Associated Press. 

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