Monday, December 6, 2010

Alabama Man Attacked By A (Black?) Panther

By now many of you may have heard that an Alabama man was attacked by a black panther in rural Marshall County. If true, this would be a monumental story in wildlife circles. As you all know, wildlife officials flatly deny the existence of any sort of native melanistic big cats. But is this story true? Was this man attacked by a black panther?


The Times-Daily, published in Florence, Alabama printed the following Associated Press report of the incident:

UNION GROVE, Ala. - An Alabama man says he's recovering after being attacked by a panther near his Marshall County home.

Frank Harmes says he was walking his dog in a cove behind his home near Morgan City when he heard something behind him and turned to see a black panther.

Harmes says he moved to try to scare the panther away, but instead it attacked and clawed his leg. He says he stabbed the animal twice with a knife and it ran away.

Residents of the area have reported seeing panthers in the past, saying they sometimes come out looking for food.

Harmes says he will undergo a series of rabies shots because of the attack.

In the article it is clearly stated that Frank Harmes saw, and was attacked by, a black panther. The AP article shows Alabama television station WHNT as its source. A quick check of the WHNT site does say a black panther was the attacker.

The story doesn't end there, however, as there are conflicting reports out there as to the color of the big cat in question. Television station WSFA covered the story and reports a tawny colored panther was the culprit. In fact, they quote the victim, Frank Harmes directly. According to WSFA, Harmes said, "It was a Florida panther. The tan ones that have white spots around the whiskers."

The WSFA article said that neighbors backed up the claim that there are cougars in the area. Douglas Mason, who lives in the area said he saw a tan cougar on his back porch a year ago. Interestingly, Mason added, "There was a black one with it and it was eating cat food, too."

A third Alabama television station , WKRG, documents the incident briefly with a short article that says Harmes "turned to see a black panther."

So what is the deal here? Was it a black panther or a tawny colored cat? How can Frank Harmes be quoted as saying the animal that attacked him was a tawny colored Florida panther and also be quoted as saying it was a black panther? I located a video at, of all places, the Weather Channel website. It features Frank Harmes telling his story. At no point does he mention the cat that attacked him being black. It seems odd to me that he would not mention that detail. The video report does feature a grayish looking cougar caught on a game camera. According to the date visible on the picture it was taken back in 2006. The narrator says the photo was taken in the same area where Mr. Harmes had his confrontation.

This is an interesting story regardless of the color of the cat involved for various reasons. A Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) in Alabama would be big news in wildlife circles as these cats are critically endangered. Even if it was the more commonly distributed North American mountain lion (Puma concolor couguar) it would be news. Like Texas officials, Alabama wildlife personnel are commonly quoted as saying these big cats are not present in their state. I can hear the "it's an escaped pet" line being spoken already. If it turns out to be a wild cougar it could point to a breeding population in the state. Again, that would be big news. If it truly was a large melanistic cat then the story is huge for obvious reasons.

One of the more interesting aspects of this story actually deals with a response to it by a reader of the Cryptomundo website. Loren Coleman posted the AP story at the site. A reader replied with the following:

# ***** responds: December 5th, 2010 at 10:21 am

David-Australia questions “what is meant by the term “Black Panther” in North America”??

In reality, Black Panthers continue to be a mystery to both veteran field researchers as well as state & federal wildlife officials who have been & are in constant denial of their presence for decades.

Yet Black Panther sightings continue to generate intense interest with the American Public as well as the 40% of wildlife sceintists who actually believe “large black cats exceeding 50 pounds or more ARE definitely roaming various regions of the U.S”.
A few BLACK cougars (pumas) have been caught on film in Central & South America.
1 Black adult Jaguar was caught on a trail camera in northern Mexico in October, 45 miles south of the Rio Grande River & the Texas Border. This was the 1st time a Black Jaguar was filmed so close to any U.S. Border…resulting in this question: Have Black jaguars moved into the U.S.?? and 2) Could black jaguars be mistaken for black cougar & be a “Black Panther”??

Since I am the Director of the Eastern Puma Research Network in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, here are some statistics people should be made aware of:
23% of all big cat sightings reported to us in states east of the Mississippi River are of large BLACK CATS with estimated weights exceeding 65 pounds.
12-15% of witnesses are professionals with college/university backgrounds as teachers, while another 20% are trained observers with wildlife, forestry management or law enforcement backgrounds, meaning they are witnesses who know what animal they are seeing.

Documented reports from the files of the Eastern Puma Research Network were featured on History Channel’s MonsterQuest Documentary Series in 2007. 1 primary report showed a large BLACK CAT, we referred to as a Black Panther, seen & filmed by a Pennsylvania deputy law enforcement officer in November 1978. The set of 3 pictures were filmed from a distance of 1,000 feet, making it vitually impossible to see a ordinary housecat from such a great distance, as several skeptics & the PGC critics claimed.
If you have a black housecat, try it for yourself with a camera…see if you can locate your cat at such a great distance..

If you want seek more facts on large BLACK cats & ordinary cougars/mountain lions inhabiting the eastern U.S., go to our NEW website at

I find this very interesting. I don't know where he gets his statistics or how accurate they may be but his organization is legitimate.

Alabama wildlife officials are going to have to look for this cat. Frank Harmes claims to have stabbed it twice during the attack. If the animal was not mortally wounded it is going to be in a nasty state of mind and a danger to anyone that crosses it's path. If it is injured to the degree it cannot hunt effectively then the danger to humans increases exponentially.

It seems to be a safe assumption that Frank Harmes had a run-in with a big cat of some kind. Was it black? According to Harmes on two different pieces of video that answer is no. Did he initially say the cat was black and change his mind? I don't know.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Stay tuned...


  1. there is also a rumor around here fore decades that the redstone arsenal released black cougar/panther into the wild to somehow help with a beaver problem blocking theyre questionable runoff.Also cat sightings in these parts are more common than ever in north alabama

  2. For what it's worth, I have a game camera shot of a large black cat in Jefferson Cty on the Blount Cty line in Alabama. I'm sending the info to the website documented in this blog. Also, in reference to the map above there is a documented killing of a cougar in West Point, GA which is just a few miles from the AL line.

  3. Matt,

    I'd love to see that photo, if you don't mind sharing it.


  4. People in Pinson, AL (near Blount County line) have been seeing a "black panther". Also black bears

  5. On August 31, 2010 in rural Coosa County close to our lake house, I had a clear sighting on the side of the road of a very large black panther. I'm not good at judging weight but would hazard a guess of between 85 - 115 lbs. I drove right by it on the side of the road. On approach, I could not believe what I was seeing and came w/in a minimum distance of 15-20 ft.
    This was much larger than a bobcat or coyote with an extremely long tail. Solid black with no spots or markings. It crouched down on side of the road as I drove by with my convertible top down and scared the beejeesus out of me.

  6. I lived in Royal in Blount county when I was younger we had a black panther in our woods we seen it walk threw our yard a few times. It was so pretty. My uncle went out to its foot print and placed a a can long ways in it. The panthers foot print was huge. Most days we could hear it when it. It sounded like a lady screaming like someone was beating her. It would be so loud but chilling. So I have to disagree with the Alabama Wildlife there are big cats in Alabama.

  7. I saw a very large black cat on my farm in Calhoun county late yesterday. It was much larger than a bobcat with a long tail. We have coyotes too so I know what they look like. Wish I had a camera with me.

  8. As of 2014-2015, jaguarundi have been positively identified in Tallapoosa County. I've personally sighted one, and the game warden reported one on the Auburn University Piedmont Station in Camp Hill. A smaller, darker cousin to the panther / cougar.

  9. I think I caught one on my trail camera the other day here in Rockford in Coosa County. Have heard screams as well.

  10. I am from Hamilton, AL, Marion County. There have been sightings throughout the years of a very large Black Wild Cat of some kind. Panther? Puma? Cougar? I don't know but I've seen it, I've heard it scream several times in the woods behind our house 3 times over the years...and I know the people that have seen it or its offspring that live near where I grew up and these are honest and good people. Now you can say what you want about there being no way this could happen... But I know what I saw and heard and I believe the others that over the years have seen this big cat over the years...

  11. Interesting. Somehow missed this story when it happened. I had been to that location sometime around 15 years ago and found an arrowhead along the Tennessee River, later took my parents and friends out there for a hike around. Never expect to see anything unless its a deer, and weren't any of those. However, what caught my attention about this story is that once when I was driving along highway 67 between Decatur and Priceville, where one of the many parts Joe Wheeler Wildlife Refuge is at, there was a dead animal on the side of the road. I thought Black Labrador, of course, although its tail and head seemed wrong. Even fur was too much like velvet to seem dog-like. Immediately changed my mind to panther, but I wasn't smart enough to stop and turn around to confirm what it really was. Anyway, not far from there is where I used to live on 24 acres and one time a couple tall wolf-like animals stood watching me from about 100' away. Dark reddish-brown, like dark chocolate, but not black. Had known the story about some wolves released way back when to keep beaver populations down, not about cougars or panthers like I read in 1st comment here.
    Its curious so many people are saying they've seen these things. I hoped someone would have checked that roadkill I saw and known one way or another about it, was not there soon afterward. Reminds me of another time seeing a freshwater otter, it looked solid black, going across a road in a swampy location near Flint Creek in the same general area. I didn't know they existed, I'm not a hunter or wildlife enthusiast. Seen beaver roadkills though, hit one myself while riding motorcycle along same part of highway 67 at night. Other than that its usually only 'possum, raccoon, deer, and more frequently now armadillo. Oh, and skunk. Never sighted a bear anywhere, even when living in Washington State only tree trunk scratching from them (and/or cougar?). So I will watch when in the woods or out for countryside walks but not expecting to find these rare animals.