Black California Wildcat?
About ten years ago, I was on a bike ride with my father and sisters and saw the strangest feline.
We were riding through Bidwell Park in Chico, CA, which is a large, natural city park.
We were somewhat between the Upper (most wild) and Lower (more urban) portions and it was around 5 or 6pm.
The cat was larger than any domestic cat I’ve seen, but nowhere near the size of a mountain lion, which are occasionally seen in the area.
It was solid black or perhaps a very dark brown, had a smallish head in proportion to it’s body, quite rounded ears, exceptionally long tail (at least 1.5 times the length of the body- and it was fairly thick).
The cat probably weighed as much as a medium dog, maybe around 30-40lbs. I definitely startled it and it quickly bolted with the graceful slink of your usual feline.
A few years later, my parents purchased a lot directly across the street from the area where I saw this cat.
I haven’t seen it again, but my father, who was perhaps a bit skeptical of my story at first, has seen a cat that matches this description on a few occasions, usually at or after dusk. He has even gotten within several yards of it laying in the grass beyond their fence. We have not gotten any picture of it though!
The environment we have seen it in is: rural (only three houses in the area and all on acreage, though one decently busy road); partly forested with oaks, cottonwood, and silver pine; tall grass; lots of scrubby brush like elderberry, willow, grape vine, etc; and a creak that runs through the whole area.
Other wildlife present include deer, raccoons, skunks, jack rabbits, coyote, occasionally a lone wolf, and once mountain lion tracks were spotted around the corral of a neighbor’s mare and her newborn foal (examined by Fish and Game who requested we shoot the lion if seen- I don’t think the tracks were from the mystery black cat because they were WAY too large- think desert plate), and plenty of birds, reptiles, rodents, and insects. Also, my parents have a very small and now old domestic feline, and the neighbors have one large dog that is usually inside, and a few horses.
Any idea what this cat could be? The closest match I’ve found so far is the Jaguarundi, but this cat had a longer tail than any Jaguarundi image I have seen, and the tail was thicker.
The head was awkwardly small for it’s body (compared to a domestic cat) with rounded ears like the Jaguarundi and ocelot. Perhaps a mutant Jaguarundi, since Northern California is quite a bit isolated from the species’ reported Central American range. Also, the Jaguarundi seems smaller than our mystery cat of around 30-40lbs. Any ideas?