Morning run turns into a sprint after reported ‘large cat’ encounter in James River Park


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It is not uncommon to spot deer, fish, and birds at James River Park, but what about an exotic cat? One man’s encounter on his morning run sent him sprinting away from what he describes as a large feline.

Daniel Rodriquez says it happened near the park system headquarters on May 21.

According to Rodriguez, he was passing the headquarters when he saw a silhouette sitting on top of a large mound of dirt. At first, says he thought maybe it was a deer. As he got closer, Rodriguez says the animal came down from the mound of dirt and crossed his path.

“That’s when I noticed it looked more like a big cat,” Rodriguez explained. “It had a big body with a tail as long as the body. It was a very fit, muscular cat. I would say it was a dark brown color.”

He said the animal then jumped into an adjacent tree then started growling at him as he passed. Rodriguez compares the sound of the roar to that of a lion.

“I didn’t realize which way I was running. I just wanted to get out of there, said Rodriguez. “I don’t think I’ve ever had that much fear in my life.”

Former park manager Ralph White is skeptical about a large cat prowling around the park.

“It’s never happened before. The nearest sightings have been in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley years ago, maybe.”

A VCU biologist inspected the site, but did not find any conclusive evidence. Rodriguez, who is a biologist himself, said he knows what he saw, adding that he will not be running in the park again any time soon.

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