An unusual henhouse invader was shot Tuesday by a farmer in Chester County, near Philadelphia.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission was informed of the exotic cat sighting by a farm manager who called that evening claiming a cheetah-like animal was in his chicken coop killing chickens.
Informed that he had authority to kill the animal to protect his livestock, the farmer shot and killed what turned out to be a serval, a predator native to the African savannah and mountains that feeds on birds, small rodents and occasionally larger animals.
The serval is related to the African golden cat and the caracal. Average body length is about 34 inches, plus a 16-inch tail. It stands about 21 inches at the shoulder and males can weigh up to 55 pounds. The serval is not a threatened species, but is considered at risk for threatened status if commercial trade isn't controlled.
The Game Commission and state police investigated an unconfirmed cougar attack in October in Lancaster County, but officials don't believe the incidents are related. The serval is believed to have escaped from a private owner. An investigation has been opened regarding the lawful ownership of the animal.