Lots Of Help, But No Sign Of Lion Yet Search Suspended Until Somebody Sees Something

Break out the hound dogs.

Use a female lion as bait.

Fill a milk jug with tuna and blood and drop it from the air 15 feet.

Nancy Sattin massaged her temples Friday as she listened to one tip after another on her monumental problem: How to catch an African lion?

People from Florida to Portland called the animal control director with advice - sometimes helpful, sometimes just plain creative - after learning a 500-pound lion spotted in Spokane has eluded searchers for three days.

“You take a milk container,” said a hunter from Alaska. “Put tuna and water and blood in there and shake it. Get it 15 feet in the air and dump it. The animal will come.”

Of course, he added, so will every cougar and coyote for miles around.

A Stevens County lion owner offered to tempt the beast with a companion. “My idea is to bring a female girl down there,” she said.

Uh, maybe later, Sattin said.

A horseback rider from Medical Lake wanted to round up riding buddies for a lion hunt. Safer than scouring woods on foot like Sattin had done, she said.

“I can’t believe you’d actually do that, girl!” the woman scolded Sattin. “It’d only take a second for that thing to grab someone and snap his neck.”

Sattin sighed. “That thought did cross my mind a couple times.”

Sattin, 41, began directing Spokane County Animal Control in October. She’s worked there nearly a decade and has college degrees in horticulture and water resources.

She has seized a python from a car trunk. Tranquilized a cougar. Netted a bobcat. Evicted a rattlesnake from a church office.

But nothing, Sattin said, nothing prepared her for this.

“Hi, this is Nancy,” she said into the telephone. “Do you have any African lion footprints I can look at?”

An hour later, Sattin leaned toward a golden, yawning beast at the Cat Tales animal park in North Spokane. She snapped Polaroids like an overzealous tourist.

Behind a 12-foot-tall pen, Jambo, the king of the Cat Tales park, couldn’t muster enough interest to keep his eyes open.

But back at her office on North Flora, Sattin’s photographs got the undivided attention of her fellow searchers.

Jambo’s footprints are about the size of Sattin’s hand. From head to tail, he measures 110 inches. He weighs 580 pounds. He’s 3.

“Holy cow!” gasped Jennifer Kline, 33. “That’s what we could’ve come into contact with last night out in the brush? Now I’m really scared!”

Kline had searched wholeheartedly for two days, even offering to donate a frozen turkey from her freezer for bait.

Scanning the pictures, she admitted a weekend in a hot tub with a pina colada sounded real fine.

By late afternoon, Sattin had come up with a game plan - a blend of numerous tips and advice from state game officials.

She won’t start another search based on just suspicious noises. Her plan will spring into action only after a serious lion sighting.

First, she’ll find a paw print. Then she’ll hire a searcher with hounds - a rescue worker from Portland volunteered for just airfare and a nonsmoking hotel room - and load her dart guns with enough tranquilizer to drop a 600-pound beast.

She’ll have armed officers as backup, as she did at Thursday night’s unsuccessful search near Indian Canyon Park.

“I need a fresh sighting, not a roar,” Sattin said. “This may become expensive, so I want to make sure somebody actually sees it before we bring people in.”

After two 15-hour days, Sattin loaded her dart gun and maps in her pickup shortly after 5 p.m. Friday and started for home.

But before she left, Sattin answered one more call. The trembling voice of an 82-year-old woman reminded her the lion that can’t be caught has nevertheless captured the hearts of many Spokane residents.

“I love that African lion,” the woman said. “I know it’s somebody’s pet. So please don’t hurt it or kill it or anything. The poor thing is trusting you people.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color)

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