The feline was spotted near Crossroads Park and was last seen slipping over a hill, just beyond the river bottoms.
Kirsten Bright and her sister Taylor were just about to complete their first 20-mile bike ride on the Platte River Parkway Trail late Monday morning when they approached a police officer holding a large gun.
“(The officer) stopped us and told us there was a mountain lion in the area so we couldn’t get back to my car,” Kirsten recalled Tuesday in interviews with the Star-Tribune over the phone and on Facebook. “We were kind of stranded.”
Kirsten and Taylor instead rode their bikes to a nearby gas station to borrow a phone and call their mom for a ride. Their story was met with skepticism.
“It kind of looked like no one believed us,” Taylor said.
The sisters weren’t lying about the search. As reports of a mountain lion roaming around town came in, officials from the Casper Police Department and Wyoming Game and Fish descended on the area. As the day wore on, though, the likelihood of the animal actually being a mountain lion diminished considerably.
“There was definitely a feline type animal, but we don’t believe it was a mountain lion,” said Robin Kepple, public information specialist for Wyoming Game and Fish. “It looked to be a large, domestic-type cat, but we’re not certain.”
A biologist and hounds were dispatched to try and track down the animal, but to
“We never did find him after initial sightings,” Kepple said.
Casper police did manage to get a few photos.
Sgt. Deahn Amend said the animal looked more like a house cat when it looked at the camera straight on.
“It looked like a mountain lion, it just didn’t look like it was big enough,” said Brian Olsen, Casper regional wildlife supervisor at Wyoming Game and Fish. “At a distance, it really is hard to tell.”
By Tuesday, officials still were puzzled as to the animal’s exact genetic makeup.
Although nothing is confirmed, officials say the animal could have been a large breed domestic cat similar to a Maine Coon.
Reports of mountain lions around Casper proper are not unheard of. There was a confirmed sighting in 2008, when Star-Tribune Publisher Nathan Bekke’s family found one under its deck.
“We’ve had plenty of sightings on Casper Mountain and in the vicinity throughout the year,” Olsen said. “It’s not uncommon to see them in these areas, but they are very secretive animals, and very nocturnal. They just don’t like being around people.”
But Olsen said Game and Fish officials have also dealt with several cases involving mistaken identity in the past.
“A couple of years ago, we had a guy ... he knew that he had a mountain lion in the backyard behind his fence. It ended up being a grocery bag 100 yards from his house,” he said. “We get calls like that quite often.”
Officials did not continue the search for the feline Tuesday.
Amend said the Casper Police Department appreciated the calls alerting them to the animal.
“We have had several mountain lions within the city limits,” she said. “Given the proximity to the park, we were glad it ended safely.”
To report a mountain lion sighting, contact Wyoming Game and Fish in Casper at 473-3400.