Cougar at center of animal dispute

January 29, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Hedgesville, W.Va., woman has been cited for having a cougar, and a local animal control officer has expressed concerns about other exotic animals the woman has on her property.

Deborah H. Snider was cited for having the cougar because it is illegal to have the cats in West Virginia, said Sgt. Jerry Jenkins of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

Officials do not want exotic animals like cougars released in the state because they can carry diseases that can spread to other animals, Jenkins said.


In addition to the cougar, Snider has a llama, two emus - large non-flying Australian birds similar to ostriches - a hybrid wolf and a fallow deer, a European deer that is similar to white-tailed deer except it is lighter colored, according to Jenkins.

Jenkins said he did not know the status of the citation his agency filed against Snider. Snider can face a fine of up to $300 and up to 100 days in jail from the DNR ticket, Jenkins said.

The issue is expected to be discussed before the Berkeley County Commissioners this morning.

Snider said she does not have a problem with the ticket for the cougar and hopes to have her son pick up the animal soon and take it to Colorado, where she owns property.

"I would like to have peace in my life and abide by the laws," said Snider.

Berkeley County Animal Control officer Ray Strine said Snider had the fallow deer in an animal trailer, which Strine felt did not give the animal enough room. Strine said he wanted the deer released from the trailer, but Snider objected, according to Strine.

Snider said she has erected a 20-by-30-foot pen for the fallow deer.

Strine said the hybrid wolf came from Colorado, and he said he wants Snider to return it there. Strine said the animal is being kept outside on about a 50-foot cable, and he is worried about the safety of children should anyone get close to the animal. Strine said the hybrid wolf has been loose two times.

Snider said the animal is not a hybrid wolf, but a cross between a husky and a German Shepherd dog. She said animal control officials have told her they have no problem with the dog.

After learning that Snider had the cougar, wildlife officials wanted to take the cat from her property but did not have anything to tranquilize it with, said Jenkins. Officials then allowed Snider a period of time to get rid of the animal, Jenkins said.

"She's a real nice lady. She just likes animals," said Jenkins.

Jenkins said the cougar, which appeared to be healthy, was being kept in a cage which was about 6 feet by 10 feet in size.

"The animals look good," Strine said.

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