Witnesses or not, beast is a no show

August 2 Baltimore and Mongomery Counties, Maryland AP

Anne Arundel County's answer to Bigfoot remained elusive yesterday, one day after four
people told police they spotted a 12-foot-tall animal near the Arundel Mills mall construction
site in Hanover.

Although witnesses reported seeing a 15 to 20 inch footprint left by the mysterious beast, State Department of Natural Resources officials said this morning that only tracks the size of a human hand were found at the site.

Clifton Horton of DNR's Wildlife Division, who inspected the site yesterday afternoon, said the area where he was searching--a large storm water management pond near woods--would have been a prime place for footprints because of the wet terrain, but he found nothing there. "This is a good place to look for signs, such as hair or tracks," he said.

As of last night, Mr. Horton had still been unable to speak with any of the four men who claim to have seen the animal. Mr. Horton was to meet at the site today with police and a witness who saw the animal, said Susan O'Brien, a spokesman for the DNR.

The three construction workers and off-duty county police officer working security at the site reported seeing the animal about 12:30 a.m. Monday, said Sgt. Joseph E. Jordan, county police office spokesman. Officer Nicholas DiPietro also reported finding a 15 to 20 inch footprint, Sgt. Jordan said. The construction workers were spending the night in a van when they spotted the animal running away from their vehicle on two legs, Sgt. Jordan said.

Officer DiPietro heard the report of the animal sighting on his police scanner and quietly approached the darkened spot where the men had seen the creature. There, Officer DiPietro stumbled upon two inhuman-like red eyes glaring back at him, Sgt. Jordan said. The animal did not make a noise but only stared.

The construction workers fled to a nearby fast-food restaurant and had to be persuaded to
return with Officer DiPietro to the site, Sgt. Jordan said. Based on the information from the police report, Mr. Horton said the animal was probably although not definitely a bear.

"In all likelihood, what they saw was a bear," Mr. Horton said. He pointed out that a bear was killed five miles away on the Baltimore Washington Parkway in June and two other bears were spotted in that area recently.

Severna Park resident, Al James said he and his family saw signs of bears near the mall site in recent months. He said he saw a "big track" in a wooded area near his daughter's Hanover home.

"There are several areas where it looks as though they made a bed," Mr. James said. "It's not to far from the construction site." In addition to looking for a footprint, Mr. Horton searched for fur, droppings, or other signs of bears.

Natural Resources Police said there have been bear sightings in Baltimore and Montgomery Counties so far this year. County police are warning area residents to be careful if they see any bears or other large wild animals. "We're asking anyone in the area who sees it not to approach it, but to call the police or the DNR," said Officer Charles Ravenell, county police spokesman.

The Capital, Staff Writer Laura Green
Credit source Tim Olson

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