A Eurasian lynx that was captured after it was spotted roaming Central Islip in July, has found its forever home at the Holtsville Ecology Site and Animal Preserve.   Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Meet Leonardo deCatbrio — the young Eurasian lynx rescued after he was spotted roaming Central Islip in July — who now has a new home at the Holtsville Ecology Site and Animal Preserve.

The lynx, known as "Leo" at the preserve, is believed to have been someone's illegal pet. He was found pawing through garbage in Central Islip on July 29 — three days after being first spotted on a porch in the hamlet. He was infested with parasites and had a wound on his face when Suffolk police responding to a call about the cat on the loose found him. 

The Strong Island Animal Rescue League brought the lynx to the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, where he was described as “extremely fearful,” and chose to stay inside for as long as 20 hours a day, instead of venturing outside in his enclosure. Eventually he was brought to the Holtsville preserve.

“We’re very excited to have Leo with us and we are excited to introduce him to the public,” said Daniel Losquadro, superintendent of Brookhaven's highway department, which oversees the preserve.

Located on Buckley Road, the preserve cares for approximately 100 wild animals that were either given up by their owners, seized or rescued.

Eurasian lynx live in the forests of Western Europe and Central Asia. Losquadro said that while Leo can never be released back to his native habitat, the cat seems to have adjusted well to life at the Holtsville preserve.

“This animal is very clearly imprinted on humans,” Losquadro said. “Thankfully, the incredible staff at the ecology center developed a rapport with Leo, and found out what his favorite foods and toys are.”

Leo the Eurasian Lynx is shown in his new enclosure...

Leo the Eurasian Lynx is shown in his new enclosure at the Holtsville Eccology Center and Animal Preserve on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The former, he said, is raw chicken — with the bones, not cutlets.

As for the latter, the approximately 40-pound cat, like the center's other wild creatures, has several interactive toys in his enclosure — “things to sort of mimic their natural instincts,” including hidden meals, Losquadro said.

“They have to hunt a little for it,” he said, and solve problems.

New York State bars anyone from “knowingly” possessing, harboring, selling, bartering, transferring, exchanging or importing any wild animal as a pet.

If Leo's owner is found, that person could be fined $250 and charged with public endangerment, since a wild cat like Leo could harm someone.

The Suffolk County SPCA is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the owner's arrest and conviction.

“These animals are not pets, they should never have been pets in the first place,” Losquadro said.

He added, “We are fortunate that we have the ability to put them in an environment where people can learn that,” he said, explaining the preserve aims to educate the public about its exotic animals, including a bear, a bobcat, a buffalo and an eagle.

“The real point being we don’t want people to make that mistake in the first place," he said.

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