UPDATED: Va. Beach hatches plan to reel in Rocky the runaway serval

Rocky at home with his family's dog. [Photo courtesy City of Virginia Beach]

Rocky, the Outer Banks’ most infamous feline runaway, turned up in Virginia Beach on Wednesday morning — more than five months after his last escape.

On its Facebook page, the City of Virginia Beach posted a photo of an African serval cat wearing a tracking collar, saying the “exotic cat” was spotted in the 2300 block of Shore Drive. Rocky’s owner, Brian Hankins, quickly confirmed the cat in question is indeed Rocky. Animal Control officers searched the area and found tracks, but no sign of the big cat.

Now the city, noting that Rocky “is a bit infamous in his area” has formulated a plan to end Rocky’s freedom run, with assistance from Hankins.

Rocky the African serval was spotted in Virginia Beach on Wednesday. [Photo courtesy Virginia Beach Animal Control]
Rocky last escaped from his owner’s home in Martins Point on Oct. 23, 2018. He is wearing a tracking collar, but the batteries died shortly after his breakout.

Virginia Beach officials noted Rocky “is a domesticated pet, and is accustomed to being around dogs, people and children.”

“He has been out on his own for awhile now and is not likely to come up to people. He will hunt small mammals and birds, and has been known to take a chicken or two,” the city said in a Facebook post.

Since his last escape, Rocky has been spotted many times and caught on security camera footage in Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. Traps have been set and wildlife trackers have worked to find him, but the elusive feline evaded capture. His last escape, by far his longest, came about six months after a breakout early in 2018, which lasted several months.

“There is a plan in place to set traps in an attempt to catch Rocky, his owner will be coming up to assist our officers,” Virginia Beach officials said.  “We want everyone to be aware that he is in the area. Last known location is Shore Drive area, near the state park. If anyone should see him please notify dispatch ASAP so we have a current location on him. 757-385-5000.”

The red tag on the map marks the area where Rocky was spotted Wednesday. [Google maps]
Serval cats are considered the most successful hunters among African wildcats, but as pets they are known as extraordinary escape artists.

North Carolina is among a handful of states that doesn’t regulate ownership of many exotic species. Dare County also does not regulate the ownership of serval cats.

But Dare County Manager/Attorney Robert Outten said there are two current ordinances that may apply to Rocky. One requires that a “vicious, fierce or dangerous animal” must be confined or restrained. The second applies to dangerous dog provisions, but uses the word “animal” rather than dog.

Rocky at home with the family dog. [Photo courtesy Virginia Beach police]
“It allows impoundment and if it meets certain conditions ultimately it may be destroyed,” Outten said in an email after Rocky’s October escape.

Rocky is not known to be a threat to humans or pet dogs and cats, but has killed many local residents’ chickens.

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About Kari Pugh 1074 Articles
Kari Pugh is digital director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach her at kpugh@jammediallc.com