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Big cats sighted roaming campus

The sighting of a large cat near Reinhardt Hall resulted in the closing of the Pine Top fitness trail and the circulation of a campus-wide e-mail that put the community on notice to be on the lookout for the animal.

Though it was only sent once, the brief e-mail cautioned that a potentially dangerous large cat was seen in the northeast section of the campus. The e-mail, sent by Niviece Robinson, Department of Public Safety Operations superintendent, included a short description that identified the animal as "a large cat, tan in color, [with] dark spots/ strip[e]s, about 22 inches tall and weighing between 20 and 30 pounds."

The email also advised the community to report any sighting of the animal to Public Safety immediately, call Public Safety for an escort instead of walking alone, discontinue use of the fitness trail as it had been closed and to keep children supervised at all times.

According to Robinson, the feline had been reported twice to Public Safety, the first time by a contractor, and the second time by an EF student who reported seeing not just one but two suspicious animals. The date and time of the first sighting were not disclosed, however Robinson did say that the EF student's sighting had taken place "on Friday the third in the early morning hours."

But, according to the Mills College Public Safety Activity Report 2006, the student did not report having seen the two suspicious animals until 1:40 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3.

The reported cat closely fits the description of a bobcat in its size and coloring. Bobcats are found widely throughout most of California in just about all types of habitats. They are often found in mountainous regions like the Oakland Hills, of which Mills sits at the bottom.

Bobcats are sighted often in the Oakland Hills and all over California due to expanding cities that encroach on wild animal's natural habitats. They often find their way into backyards and parks.

This is not the first time that bobcats have been seen on the Mills campus. Two years ago, in December of 2003, The Weekly reported three sightings of bobcats. One of the reported incidents involved a bobcat running towards a woman immediately after she exited her vehicle. Following the sightings, the fitness trail was closed and the students were advised not to walk alone.

Robinson said in her e-mail that the Alameda County Vector Control, the City of Oakland Animal Control and a private trapper had all been called in an attempt to capture the animal. Robinson gave no response as to whether or not the cat, or possibly cats, have yet been caught.

According to the Animal Diversity Web, if you sight a bobcat you should make yourself appear big and intimidating but should not run away, because this could incite the animal's hunting instinct.