State officials weigh in on reported black wildcat sightings

SPRING VALLEY, Calif. - One day after a reported sighting of a large black wildcat sparked a ground and aerial search in El Cajon, 10News retraced the string of reports as state officials weighed in on the sightings.

It was 4 a.m. at his Spring Valley home and Manny Domagsang, a retired U.S. Navy Chief, was in the computer room when he heard a commotion coming from his chicken coop.

He went running outside and "I pointed my flashlight, saw a big black cat staring at me," said Domagsang.

Domagsang said just feet away from him on that November morning was a shiny black wildcat about 60 pounds.

"As I'm getting closer, it just jumped over the fence," said Domagsang.

The creature left behind a mess of feathers, one dead chicken and four injured chickens.

Domagsang and his wife have lived in the home for nearly four decades, and he said, "I've never seen one like that before."

In early January, next-door neighbor David Moody said his wife saw a sleek, long, black wildcat sauntering across a field just beyond their backyard fence. The animal was about the size of his German shepherd.

"I thought she was imagining things, but she was pretty confident," said Moody.

Weeks later came the sighting in El Cajon, which launched a helicopter and ground search that turned up nothing.

Authorities confirmed 10News' suspicions that the woman claiming to have snapped a photo of a large panther-like cat actually got it from the Internet. She still believes she saw a wildcat.

It's the latest in a string of similar sightings in the last few years, ranging from Miramar and Deer Valley to Jacumba.

Officials at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife say without photos or paw prints, it's tough to even make a guess.

One intriguing possibility -- could the black panther or jaguar, which became extinct in San Diego in the mid 1800s, have returned?

Not likely.

"It could be a house cat. It could be juvenile mountain lion, darker hair. It could be a lot of things," said Lt. Mike Ference of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

One theory investigators aren't leaning on is the possibility of an escaped exotic pet.

The sightings point to an elusive animal and not a trait common in cage-reared pets.

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