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Bobcats in McLean?

Resident reports bobcat sighting, but wildlife experts say it is unlikely.

As McLean resident Priscilla Urner, 88, was walking into her garage at around 8 p.m., she had the distinct impression that something was following her.

"I looked over my shoulder and here was this animal that I thought was a raccoon," said Urner, who lives along Dead Run in the Broyhill Estates area of McLean. "It ran and jumped up on the gate and turned and looked at me, and it had these big, big eyes like a raccoon, but it was this beautiful gray and gold color animal, about 16 inches long and 14 or 15 inches tall."

Urner could not figure out what it was that she saw last weekend.

"We've seen a fox, but I hadn't seen this type of thing before," she said.

She said her neighbor also spotted the animal, but was unable to identify it either. So, Urner decided to put in a call to Riverbend Park. Based on her description, a staff member at Riverbend informed her that it was possibly a bobcat, although there was really no way to be sure.

"Apparently they've got quite a few of them in Riverbend, so it might have followed Dead Run down," said Urner.

However, according to Earl Hodnett, a Wildlife Biologist with the Fairfax County Animal Control Unit, the chances that Urner saw a bobcat in her garage are "right up there with Big Foot."

"Bobcats don't like people, and they're going to know that a house and a garage are people related," said Hodnett.

Hodnett said that while "it's not beyond the realm of possibility" that there are bobcats along the Potomac River corridor, there have not been any confirmed sightings in his memory.

"The last bobcat I saw in Fairfax County was in 1972," said Hodnett.

Urner feared that the numerous bird feeders in her yard attracted the animal to her property.

"This one seemed to have a low slung belly, so I thought either it was carrying a baby, or it was looking for food to bring back to its young," said Urner.

Hodnett said that even if there was a bobcat in the area, it would not be dangerous to humans.

"Bobcats are found theoretically throughout the state, and they are very alert and of course proficient predators, but you don't generally walk up on a bobcat," said Hodnett. "If you see one it’s usually accidental and typically at a distance. Bobcats are not known for coming into urban areas."