The Eurasian lynx, nicknamed Leo, found in Central Islip on...

The Eurasian lynx, nicknamed Leo, found in Central Islip on July 29 had been recovering at the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown until Wednesday, when he was transported to his permanent home. Credit: Janine Bendicksen/Sweetbriar Nature Center

The Suffolk County SPCA is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the owners of a Eurasian lynx that was captured after roaming Central Islip streets for three days in late July.

The animal welfare nonprofit announced a $5,000 award on Thursday. The SPCA is one of the agencies involved in the case of an illegally owned Eurasian lynx — nicknamed Leo. Investigators hope the reward will entice more tips in their quest to determine the cat’s origins, said SPCA Chief Roy Gross. 

“We think somebody’s going to come forward. We’re looking to set an example more than anything, because this cat, obviously, could be extremely dangerous and is capable of inflicting bodily harm,” he said, adding that owning the cat is a misdemeanor. 

The 40-pound lynx was first spotted on a Central Islip porch and was on the lam for three days before he was captured pawing through garbage on July 29. Staff at the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown had cared for Leo until Wednesday, when he was transported to his permanent home. Gross declined to share Leo’s location, but said they would announce his new home after his quarantine period. 

Janine Bendicksen, a wildlife rehabber at Sweetbriar, said the cat sparked curiosity from visitors, some of whom made offers to buy the cat or showed up with binoculars and photo equipment in hopes of catching a glimpse. 

Leo, about 1-year-old, was extremely fearful, Bendicksen said. His enclosure had both indoor and outdoor areas, but he opted to stay in his cage for close to 20 hours a day. He was only active from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. The cat didn’t use the bathroom for two days until staff installed a litter box in the enclosure. His bathroom habits and preference for his cage indicate that he was an indoor and domesticated animal, Bendicksen said. 

The feline’s favorite food was bone-in chicken and venison, but snubbed everything else, including fish and rabbit. He remains healthy, she said.

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