Call off the dogs: DEP says South Jersey critter is a house cat

A grainy photo from a hunter's game camera in Winslow Township captured a cat roaming in the wooded area. Whether it was a house cat or a mountain lion was briefly the subject of debate.

 Late Monday afternoon, the verdict was delivered.

"The Division of Fish and Wildlife reviewed the trail cam photo and video and determined that these are just house cats," said Lawrence Hajna, spokesman for the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection.

The image was taken Sept. 20 in a heavily wooded area near the Camden County township's border with Hammonton.

"We are not sure," Winslow Police Lt. Christopher Dubler said earlier when asked if the animal is a mountain lion or cat.

While a mountain lion was not out of the realm of possibility, he said, when looking at the animal in perspective to the size of the log in the photo, it appears the animal is "a house cat standing on a log."

The township also released a video taken at Plagido's Winery that shows a large feline.

"It appears to me to be a tan cat," Dubler said.

The township was in touch with the state's Division of Fish and Wildlife about the sightings, Dubler said.

Mountain lions were indigenous at one time in this area but have not existed naturally here for many years. There have been no reports of any contact between large cats and people so it appears that these animals are avoiding people, as they normally do, according to a statement issued by the police.

There have been unconfirmed sightings of the large cats in Winslow and other parts of the state over the years. In 2009, a cougar was suspected in an attack on a horse in Winslow until wildlife officials placed the blame on feral dogs.

In 2012, Ho-Ho-Kus police investigated a sighting near the Hillsdale border and Westwood Police reported a number of calls about mountain lion sightings near Pascack Brook County Park, according to a story in NJ.com.