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Exotic serval cat on the loose struck, killed by vehicle in Sooke

A serval spotted on the loose in the Sooke area is believed to be the same cat that was struck and killed by a vehicle Sunday night.
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This photo of the serval cat was taken after it was struck and killed in Sooke.

A serval spotted on the loose in the Sooke area is believed to be the same cat that was struck and killed by a vehicle Sunday night. 

On Monday afternoon, Peter Henry posted a picture of the dead exotic cat in the back of his truck, writing, “I ran over this exotic serval cat last night ... waiting for [conservation] officers to contact me!! Kinda shocking when it jumped out in front of the truck!”

The man called the B.C. Conservation Office to say he hit the cat, but his phone cut out before conservation officers could get his number or address, said Dave Carne, a spokesman for the office.

“He called COS because he didn’t know what to do. He wanted to get the cat back to its owner.”

Carne said the Capital Regional District animal shelter is responsible for the file because it involves a domesticated cat, not a wild animal.

The serval was a one-and-a-half-year-old named Sampson, said his owner, Carey Matthews, who lives in Sooke.

Matthews breeds savannahs, a hybrid feline produced from an African serval and a domestic cat.

Speaking to the Times Colonist before hearing that the cat had been hit by a car, Matthews said: “Of course, we’re heartbroken and worried — we would like him home.” She would not comment when reached again later in the day.

Matthews said her cats either stay inside the house or are kept in a large enclosed pen on the deck. She would not say how the cat got out or when it escaped.

A serval also escaped from her property in August and was not recovered until weeks later.

In the latest incident, Otter Point couple Ken and Lesley Douch spotted the serval trotting down Otter Point Place around noon on Saturday. They took a picture and sent it to local media and neighbours, advising them to be on the lookout.

There was another sighting Sunday about 6:30 p.m. on West Coast Road.

African servals are a restricted species. While they are legal in most municipalities on the Island, that can vary based on a city’s exotic animal bylaws.

Doug Nelson, a Nanaimo cat breeder, said he sold the serval to Matthews.

Nelson sells all his servals with a tracking collar. The exotic cats sell for about $8,000.

Nelson has four servals that live inside his home as pets. The cats can be domesticated and trained as house cats, but if they get out, they need to be recovered quickly because they could adapt to the wild and start preying on other animals, he said.

“They’re a non-aggressive cat, but that changes if they’re out and they’re scared and they’re threatened,” Nelson said.

There has never been a report in North America of a serval attacking a person, he said.

Nelson recently set up a non-profit society aimed at rescuing exotic cats from owners who are unwilling or unable to care for them.