A Jessup woman was in tears yesterday as a judge took away her pet -- a cougar cub -- and gave her probation before judgment on a charge of possessing an endangered species without a permit.
Dorothy L. Whitaker received the 7-month-old eastern cougar named Sheba from her husband for her 39th birthday in September.
Neighbors made anxious by the sight of Sheba tied to a tree in the Whitakers' backyard in the 7900 block of Old Jessup Road called police, according to testimony in Howard County District Court.
Mrs. Whitaker said her husband bought the cougar from a man in Baltimore, but county prosecutor Robert Voss noted that police have not been able to find the seller.
Mrs. Whitaker said she had become very attached to her pet and had tried unsuccessfully to find out how to get a permit. She pleaded to be allowed to keep Sheba, saying she was willing to leave Maryland if necessary.
But Judge R. Russell Sadler agreed to the prosecutor's request that the cougar -- which was declawed, had its teeth filed down and was described as the size of a small German shepherd -- be forfeited to the state Department of Natural Resources.
Mrs. Whitaker was ordered to pay for Sheba's upkeep in state custody, and transportation costs when the state agency finds a proper home for the animal -- most likely in a zoo.
The cougar is not believed to inhabit Maryland, despite dozens of reported sightings over the past quarter-century -- most recently in Randallstown four weeks ago.