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Internet hoax spurs mountain lion mania

mtn_lion.jpg
One of the photos circulating on the Internet claiming to show a mountain lion killed in North Carolina.

http://66.225.205.104/JR20090928.mp3

A mountain lion hoax is circulating on the Internet and inundating North Carolina wildlife offices. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: Wild mountain lions do not exist in North Carolina, according to state wildlife officials. But try telling that to Edward Allred. "I know what I saw," says Allred. "And I did a double take cause it was big - even for a dog it was big. And it was just moving along fairly slow really. And then it turned and looked. I saw its face and I said 'Well durn, that's not a dog! And it's way too big to be a cat.'" Allred got online and found a picture that matched the animal he saw wandering through his Charlotte backyard last summer. He's convinced it was a mountain lion. Wildlife biologist Mike Carraway would probably say it was a bobcat, but he's been getting a lot of calls lately about mountain lions. "There's kind of a mountain lion hysteria, I guess you might say," says Carraway, who works for the North Carolina Wildlife Commission. There are websites online where a mountain lion sighting drums up as much excitement as someone saying they saw Bigfoot, and the rumors spread just as quickly. Late last week, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission sent out an alert warning of a Mountain Lion Hoax online. Photos of the large cats were supposedly taken in North Carolina, but actually come from Texas and Arizona. "All these hoaxes around make it that much more difficult to believe anybody or take anybody seriously," says Carraway. "And it also kind of spreads the hysteria around, where people are seeing mountain lions around every corner. And we've actually had hundreds of people claiming there are pictures of mountain lions in North Carolina, which there are not." Carraway's hoping word of the hoax will spread, so his phone stops ringing off the hook.