DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Macon County Animal Control is still looking for an African serval that’s been on the loose in northeast Decatur. Professionals are sharing why it shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
It takes more than love and food to keep a wild animal, and one man in Decatur learned that the hard way when his serval got loose. Professionals say it mostly goes for small creatures like birds or mice, but wild animals can lash out if they feel threatened. A lost serval being in a new environment with unnatural sounds can cause it to be even more uncomfortable.
“I understand the people’s attachment to these animals. They’re beautiful animals… if they are not pets,” said Sally Foote, Veterinarian and Animal Behaviorist.
The African serval may look like a giant housecat and in some ways, it may even act like one. But animal experts say you should never treat it like one.
“Every animal is still kind of wild in a sense, you never know what might set it off,” James Aikman, Aikman Zoo President, said.
Aikman owns a wildlife zoo in Arcola and of his many exotic animals, he has only one serval.
“They can catch a bird out of the air about eight to ten feet up,” Aikman said. “So when you have an animal that can jump up and hang on your ceiling fan, that’s probably going to cause some issues that some people don’t think about.”
Not having enough space or activity are just some of the issues that come along with taking in a wild animal.
“They usually tend to become aggressive or they shut down completely,” Foote said. “They don’t eat. They can’t use the bathroom properly. And they really, frankly, don’t do well.”
Foote said many people make the mistake of getting one and not thinking about the life it would have to live.
“What does he need? How much exercise, the ability to hunt, et cetera? Is that going to be provided?” asked Foote. “Even if I think it’s OK, is it really OK for him? So, look at life through the animal’s eyes.”
Now that a wild cat is on the loose in Decatur, these professionals want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Aikman said people following one simple rule could be a good starting point.
“Our philosophy here at the park is if we can’t provide a better home for the animal than where it came from, then we have no business having that animal,” Aikman said.
Officials said they have traps set for the rogue serval, but they have yet to go off.