Loose African caracal captured in Royal Oak

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 14, 2021

 A photo shows three of four African caracals owned by a Royal Oak resident. On Oct. 13, Royal Oak police got involved in locating two of the exotic cats who had escaped their unsecured enclosure.

A photo shows three of four African caracals owned by a Royal Oak resident. On Oct. 13, Royal Oak police got involved in locating two of the exotic cats who had escaped their unsecured enclosure.

Photos provided by the Royal Oak Police Department

 An African caracal reportedly named BamBam evaded the Royal Oak Police Department’s search efforts for most of the day Oct. 13, before he was captured in a backyard on North Altadena Avenue.

An African caracal reportedly named BamBam evaded the Royal Oak Police Department’s search efforts for most of the day Oct. 13, before he was captured in a backyard on North Altadena Avenue.

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ROYAL OAK — In the early morning hours of Oct. 13, Royal Oak police got a report of what someone thought was a cougar walking through the parking lot of Keller Elementary School, 1505 N. Campbell Road, south of 12 Mile Road.

Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue said this is the third time police have gotten involved in searching for one or more loose African caracals owned by a Royal Oak resident. A caracal is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa and other regions, characterized by its strong build, long legs, short face, long canine teeth, and long, tufted ears.

“According to the (Department of Natural Resources), this particular species does not fall under the exotic cat classification and is unregulated,” a police press release states.

O’Donohue said the owner has four caracals that live in a secure enclosure in the owner’s backyard and that, each time they escaped, the owner did not report it to police and that the cage was unsecured as a result of human error.

“We knew just from our experience what it likely was, so we went to the home,” he said. “The cage was unsecured and two of the animals were in there. We don’t know if they got out in the night and came back, and two were missing.”

He said police began searching the area of the home in the 700 block of East La Salle Avenue, near Rochester and 13 Mile roads. They found one of the missing cats not too far away and notified the owner. 

“The owner came with a leash. Even though she wasn’t able to leash the animal, it did walk back with her back home, so we were able to get that one secured pretty early on in the morning,” O’Donohue said. “We continued to search for the other one, but because the animals are nocturnal, we’re fairly certain the other one had bedded down somewhere.”

Police notified Royal Oak Schools of the loose animal, and several police officers, the department’s animal control officer, a trapper and the owner continued searching, O’Donohue said.

At approximately 6 p.m. Oct. 13, a resident who lives on North Altadena Avenue, near 12 Mile and North Campbell roads, reported that he believed the African caracal was in his backyard. Responding police confirmed that it was the animal, O’Donohue said,

“Officers set up a perimeter and stayed close enough to keep an eye on it, but not too close to scare the animal to get it to run off,” he said. “The owner and the trapper showed up and, from my understanding, it took some doing but the trapper was able to get the animal caged.”

While both Oakland County Animal Control and the Detroit Zoo were helpful and willing to house the animal, O’Donohue said, they “were not really set up for that, so we felt the best place for the animal was back secured with the resident. She has a very secure cage.”

Police issued the owner five violations for the escape of the animals under the city’s ordinance regarding the keeping of animals, O’Donohue said.

“In a nutshell, you have to keep your animals confined to your property and she failed to do that,” he said. “It was written for a different era about if your cow gets out, but it applied and allows for nontraditional remedies.”

On Oct. 14, he said, police told the homeowner that she demonstrated the inability to keep the animals contained and “had a hard conversation with her yesterday.”

“She has agreed to relocate the animals to a more suitable environment,” O’Donohue said. “In speaking with her this morning, two will be going to Kentucky and two of them will be going to the west side of the state somewhere.”

He added that the owner assured police that the caracals will be gone by Monday, Oct. 18, and police “will be confirming that.”

“This presents a unique challenge for a suburban police department. This isn’t something we’re really trained to deal with,” O’Donohue said. “The officers did do a great job. We’re happy that the animals are safe, that the residents are safe, and the owner is willing to be reasonable and put these animals in an environment that’s better suited for them.”

A Facebook page titled “Wild At Heart Exotics” lists itself as a “pet breeder” and lists the four African caracals’ names as Wasabi, Fire, Pebbles and BamBam. BamBam is reportedly the caracal who was trapped.

The about section of the page states, “Future breeder of amazing African Caracal cats currently located in Michigan, USA. Share in my journey as we travel thru time from kittenhood, to adult cats… eventually resulting in a spectacular breeding program. Hand raised, underfoot, in my home.”

At approximately 11 p.m. Oct. 13, a Facebook page titled “South Lyon Murphy Lost Animal Recovery” posted a video of the captured African caracal pacing in a cage and hissing as police officers stood nearby.

The post reads, in part, “HAPPY 2ND GOTCHA DAY BAM BAM!!!! This little houdini escaped again and was walking around town showing his sister the place!!! She got tired and went home with mom but the bachelor wasn’t ready to go home!!!

“This case turned into chaos and most of the Royal Oak PD was on the prowl. He was located in a partially fenced back yard where we were able to drop the trap. Once I cleared the boys in blue he went right in!!”

Neither Wild At Heart Exotics nor South Lyon Murphy Lost Animal Recovery responded to a request for comment by press time.

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