At What Point is Seeing Believing?
While we’re on the subject of predators and big cats (see Deadly Powers, this issue), let’s explore the prevalence of black panther sightings around the country that have come to light, in part, because of the ease of communications these days, and through which ordinary people have described seeing, and even encounters with, large black cats. Officially, there are no black panthers in North America, and any sighting must therefore be something else—Black Labs or feral house cats), they say—but we are persuaded that, on this issue, as is not uncommon, those sitting in their offices have a lot to learn from people on the ground. And consider the fact that, according Montana’s FWP (as of several years ago) as many as 50 mountain lions may inhabit highland areas of our Paradise Valley, yet a person could live there a lifetime and never once see a lion, in that these cats are reclusive—extremely adept at concealing their whereabouts.
In North America, black panthers may historically have been black jaguars or possibly black cougars (although the puma has not been proven to have a black cousin). But these days, in northerly locales, even though they were once more common, black panthers are classified as cryptids, a creature whose existence has been reported but that is unrecognized by scientific consensus. Consider, though, the following reports we have cobbled together as we go to press, evidence that would carry much weight in a court of law, much of it posted on the Texas Cryptid Hunter blog (tex ascryptidhunter.blogspot.com) describing black panthers near a nature preserve rich with small game (in other words prey) in the Plano, Texas, area, and in other similar areas where wily black cats could both hide and hunt. Some of the reports are quite specific and seem to rule out some other creature being mistaken for a black panther or jaguar:
I live in western N.Y. and saw a black panther in our back yard. We live in the country and have 10 acres that are next to another 100 acres belonging to a family member.There is an old apple orchard on the property and deer, coyotes, rabbits, turkey, racoons—plenty of food for this cat. It does concern me, as our dog roams the land rather freely and wouldn’t be able to contend with an animal this large. I have to say, it looked beautiful, lying in the sun, but what havoc it could wreak in our lives. I don’t know the laws about protecting our pets and would really hate to waste the animal’s life, but we need to be safe. Any suggestions? Anonymous, Dec. 6, 2011
We have the panther sightings in Western Ohio now
frenchypasmt, Oct. 25, 2011
Black Panther sighting in San Antonio, Texas, Leon Valley northwest of city near Grissom Rd and Heath behind a Charter High School. The back yard of the school is fenced but behind the fence is a wooded area and a creek bed. I saw the panther down in the creek resting by a log and looking straight at me with those beautiful emerald yellow intimidating eyes. I wanted to see it move so I rattled the fence where I was standing and it looked around and took off like lightning. This particular cat is young, not fully grown yet, but other witnesses claim they have had close encounters with this cat; and I mean close, like about 10 feet away. The person that had that close encounter was a security guard pulling the evening shift. He said that he was texting while walking around the school when he saw the panther; he didn’t just freeze; he took off and the panther took off the opposite direction. I told him jokingly that their might not be a next time survivor story if you continue to text while walking in the dark; might just find a bone to identify you with if you are lucky. Thank God the panther fears humans, otherwise my friend would have been a snack. I bought and ordered a wildview digital camera and will install near the bucket of water I place for thirsty wildlife such as this specimen I talk about. Also another incident where the security guard got off the truck to patrol around the school. He had another not-too-close encounter approxi-mately 30 ft from the panther and what he did was what no one should do. He froze for a second and stomped his foot on the cement; the panther held it’s ground, so the guard just walked backward a few steps then got back in the truck for safety. I asked him if he had a camera phone and he said that it was too dark to take a picture. Minutes later he said the panther walked by the truck as if not afraid. Across the school is a fenced wooded area where they keep goats; about 25 goats of all ages and a donkey. The panther has prime real estate for food purposes and water. Another employee heard the scream of the panther; scary sound he said because he couldn’t see anything because of the dark. I should have ordered a camera that had infrared capability for night purposes; will see how the camera works and I’ll put them up on the sight somehow. The irony of this panther is that the school mascot is a black panther.
Adrian Guera, Aug. 31, 2011
I saw the black panther @ 7:30 a.m. this morning. The siting was at Marsh and Rosemead (Plano, TX) in and open field beside the creek.
Anonymous, Aug.10, 2011
I saw a large black cat in Dekalb, TX (which is 2 1/2 hours northeast of Dallas) during July 2010. There is a lot of open land and a river is close to here. I was driving and it crossed the road in front of me. I had to slow down to avoid collision, as well as to get a good look at the creature, my wife was with me. I have done some extensive research on this topic of these cats being in this region of Texas. I would have to say that it was probably a black cougar, a lot of people refer to them as panthers in this area as well. But it was definitely not a bobcat, it indeed [had] a slick, smooth black coat, with a big square head. The muscular tone of the beast was spectacular. One of the biggest I have seen in the wild or captivity.
Anonymous, Aug. 9, 2011
I live in Natchitoches, LA. The sightings are common in the rural areas of this town and surrounding areas. I wish someone would get a picture, so that it can be proven that these large cats are in this area.
Jane Norman, June 2, 2011
Now the panther is here in our town of Phoenix, LA, 50 miles south of New Orleans
Aurora Frederick, March 13, 2011
Another sighting on December 16, 2010. Near Medical Center of Plano complex. Cat spotted on Banff Court which is just off Eldorado. This is a very suburban neighborhood, but also very close to Ohio Drive and Park Blvd [Plano]. Same zip code, and just a matter of blocks away. There is also a green belt contained within that sector, with creeks and cover.
My husband (not prone to flightiness) saw a large animal three doors down from our house, and went to investigate. The animal was large, Great Dane size, according to my husband, and he would know as we live with two Great Danes. The animal was sauntering (his words) down the sidewalk, and when he heard my husband come out the front door, she stopped, turned to look at him for about four or five seconds, and turned back around, continued at a leisurely pace, and then disappeared into the side yard area of a home four doors down. My husband described the coat as “mottled” but black. This was at 2 p.m. on a sunny, sunny day. He remembered the tail, which was exceptionally long, and plush. And while he still thought it was a dog, when it turned to look straight at him, there was no doubt it was a cat, a very very very big cat, so he simply walked slowly backwards to the door, went in the house and shut the door behind him.
Verjean, Dec. 19, 2010
I saw a very large sleek black cat this morning around 3:30 on Park, just east of Ohio (on/near the parkway). It could have been a panther. I didn’t realize how big it was until it spotted me, looked around for a few seconds trying to decide what to do, and then tore off across Park. The cat was so fast, it crossed the entire street (six lanes plus the median) in less than 2 seconds. It was a thing of beauty!
Anonymous, Sept. 2, 2010
I just wanted to say my mom saw a black panther run across the road in the Plano, Texas area on Monday, July 26, 2010. Please e-mail me if you want more information. All my mother and I know is that the animal she saw was sleek, cat-like, pitch black, and very large. She couldn’t see very well, because it was around 9:30 p.m., but she swears it was a panther. The street was Windhaven, and it’s either in Richardson or Plano. I don’t drive yet, so I’m not sure. That’s pretty much all she recalls.
When she got home she called the police and they said that Animal Control was already looking for the beast.
I have no proof, obviously, that this event actually occurred as reported but this is far from the first report of large panther-like cats in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Plano area in particular has been a hot spot for big cat sightings. While most will scoff at these reports, there seems to be a bit of a pattern developing.
It is true that these animals are being seen in highly populated areas. On the surface, at least, this seems, at best, unlikely. Each sighting did take place in areas near waterways with heavily wooded riparian corridors, undeveloped or agricultural land, or nature/wildlife preserves. This latest report is a prime example of this pattern.
Windhaven Parkway is only a couple of miles away from Lake Lewisville and also runs just north of the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. In fact, Windhaven Parkway actually forms part of the northern-most boundary to the preserve. The section where the Parkway skirts the Preserve also just happens to be the most thickly forested and lonesome portion of Arbor Hills. While this particular section of Windhaven Parkway was not specified by the reader, I’m guessing this was the general area of the sighting.
(Emailed to Texas Crytpid Hunter)
When Terrance Fletcher saw a big, black cat crouching and looking at him “like a cat looks at a bird” he knew it was time to run for his life.
Mr. Fletcher, 24, of Clarksville, Ga., is a U.S. Forest Service worker who was walking along the Chattooga River on Jan. 10 near a popular camping and fishing area south of Burrell’s Ford Bridge.
“I looked over my shoulder, about 25 yards away, it took off running and I ran to the river and jumped in,” Mr. Fletcher said.
Mr. Fletcher was not fleeing an oversized feral feline. He said it was a black panther.…Mr. Fletcher is one of a growing number of people in the Upstate who say they have had close encounters
From the Independent Mail, Anderson, SC, Feb. 2007
For a hundred years, people in the Eastern States have reported seeing black cougars, frequently called panthers. In fact, language development indicates that tan/tawny cats are called by the name of cougar and catamount, but black cats have been differentiated by the use of the name of panther, i.e. black panthers. Charles Humprhey states that there are over 500 sightings in North Carolina and one-half of these were coal black panthers. Sightings of black cats in Kentucky were recently reported in Field and Stream blogs. Since the 1950s, Illinois reports multiple black cat sightings in and around Decatur and the Shawnee National Forest. Michigan, alone, has reported over 70 sightings of black cats from the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, with the majority coming from Oakland County. The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy reports that 27 percent of all sightings refer to black cats.
michigancougar.com (photo posted online)
Jamie Daughdrill of Brooklyn is one of those area residents who claims to have proof that a black panther roams the southern part of Forrest County.
He has a photo of a black feline walking across his food plot that he took with his game camera.
“I know probably less than a quarter mile from there, my wife’s niece was coming home from work six years ago. She saw something big and black cross the road and she came in and told us ‘I saw a black panther cross the road,’” Daughdrill said. “Nobody had seen anything of it for six or seven years until I got the picture on my game camera.”
Daughdrill said he wasn’t able to pick out any panther tracks near his game camera.
“All I’m saying is that it’s big and black and looks like a panther,” he said. “I never said it was a panther, but I’ve heard all my life there weren’t any in South Mississippi, but people are always hearing [about] them.
—naturalplane.blogspot.com (with photo posted online)