No topic generates more interest and reader feedback on this site than the subject of big cats. I have received more email regarding black panthers and cougars than all other topics combined.
Why the excitement over big cats? It is pretty simple. According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, breeding populations of wild mountain lions are found only in the Big Bend Trans-Pecos region and deep south Texas in close proximity to the Rio Grande. Yet, sightings of these big cats continue to roll in on a very regular basis from other parts of the state.
The excitement over black panthers stems from the fact that state and federal agencies do not recognize that they exist at all. The official stance of said agencies, which includes the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, is that there is no such animal. Period. People raised in the river bottoms and other rural areas of the Lone Star State would hotly dispute this claim. Many of these people don’t even know, much less care, that science fails to recognize the existence of black panthers. To them, the big cats have always been around and are no big deal. They are just another “long-tailed cat.” Sightings of these animals are not all that unusual in their mind.
I have discussed this topic several times but my intention here is to let those who’ve contacted me speak for themselves. Below are some of the emails I’ve received from readers regarding big cats, tawny and black, seen in places they just aren’t supposed to be.
My friend described to me a sighting of what I think is Jaguarundi last week in Palo Pinto.
While searching the internet for other sightings came across your blog. Have any other similar reports?
I will call him Monday and get the details about time, place etc. He described very clearly to me a tawny colored, cougar like cat with a long tail. Crossing the road around a lake, and waiting in the grass roadside while they looked at it.
Your blog is very interesting to us outdoor types! Can't wait to see what you find next.
July 17, 2010
I saw a very large sleek black cat this morning around 3:30a 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 torn 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!
August 15, 2010
I thought you might find these two quick stories interesting. My uncle is an HVAC technician, and was working on an AC unit on top of a building over off Cockrell Hill in Dallas . If you’re familiar with that area, much of it just a few years ago, was undeveloped hills, bluffs, forests, and prairie land. This was a newer building he was working on, and just below the building, he had a good view of the backyard of a house (he says about 40 to 50 ft away). He noticed something moving through the backyard, and to his surprise, when he looked to see what it was, it was a mountain lion! He said it walked through the yard, drank a little water from the swimming pool, and then leaped the 6 ft fence and made it’s way down into a creek that ran alongside the house on the other side.
My uncle is from east Texas and is very familiar with wildlife. He is certain that what he saw was NO bobcat, as it was much larger and had a long tail.
August 26, 2010
we saw what I would place my hand on a Bible and swear was a black panther cross our field. We were on the family farm out in Edgewood , TX while he was telling us this. From the woods, a black panther came crawling out (almost as if he was stalking something… or maybe trying to hide because he heard us talking), crossed our field, paused, and then sprang quickly into the woods on the other side. We couldn’t believe it. We watched it for a good 30 seconds, and I even watched it through binoculars, as my east TX family always keeps a pair handy when we’re having a fish fry outside… just because we enjoy watching all the critters that come across the field…. Which are usually just coyotes. But we have NEVER seen or even heard a panther before. We know they’re out there… we’ve seen prints, and some friends down the road in Van have seen them… but we couldn’t believe one was crossing our property… in broad daylight!
August 26, 2010
Yesterday morning I was sitting on my back porch drinking coffee and watching my deer feeder which is about 40-50 yards from my house. Time was 6:30 am. I picked up my binoculars to make sure they were sighted in when I saw a dark form move into the area right behind my deer feeder. My first thought was, it was a deer. It was not a deer but a large dark colored cat. The cat walked across the opening and back into the woods. I would guess the cat to be 30-36 inches tall and weigh around 50 pounds with a tail that had to be 2-3 feet in length. We live back in the woods of East Texas between Hardin and Hull Texas. I watched the cat through my binoculars for 10-15 seconds. I don’t care what the biologists say, I know what I saw. At work this morning a couple of other people have witnessed similar cats in the past.
November 22, 2010
My father says what he saw in the Big Thicket in the 1960s while clearing a pipeline right-of-way was decidedly BLACK. As he describes it, "It was black as coal..."
January 6, 2011
I just happened upon your post. I have two things for you. 1. My dad used to manage a Pilgrims Pride chicken farm just outside of Betty Texas. This would be considered a rural area, north of Gilmer Texas. Often times he would have to walk the chicken houses in the early morning around 4am and 5am in the morning. Several times he would see a big black cat scouting around the 4 chicken houses. He was able to get a plaster of one of the paws. The paw was about 4 to 6 inches in width, with large pads and claws. We were never able to get a picture of the cat however.
January 30, 2011
I am a big fan of your blog. I wanted to let you know about a sighting today between Naples and Hughes Springs in Texas. We have 45 acres that sit on the Cass County and Morris County line. It is mostly wooded and bottom land with a creek and part of an old catfish farm. Our neighbor went out to check our hog trap around 4pm today. When he was almost to the trap a large cat bolted out behind the power pole and ran into some brush. He said the cat was as big as his old Lab who weighs between 80-90 lbs. He stressed that it was very heavy or thick
March 23, 2011
I believe I saw a large black cat on the Mineral Wells Rails to Trails bike path today. I was riding along and spotted about 20 feet in front of me a large, black animal. Lanky, with a long tail and short ears. My first instinct was that it was a cat, but I thought how could that be??...It was moving slowly and deliberately. It saw me and slipped into the woods. I guess I got a little frightened as I rode by and decided not to stop and investigate further - but I really wanted to. I was trying to convince myself it was a dog..but I believe I saw a cat.
August 22, 2010
Two people I know have seen large black cats near Quitman, TX and another heard the screams of what sounded like a panther. One of my friends who saw the big, black cat was able to pull out binoculars and take a closer look. Maybe not a panther, but it was definitely a large, black cat.
September 2, 2010
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 sized 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, he/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 pm 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.
September 7, 2010
We actually have had two sightings in our area of East Texas (Anderson County). The first was about a year ago, when my husband and I were driving home down backroads in the afternoon. We saw a large black creature running through a pasture on the right side of the road. As we got closer, it darted across the road and disappeared into the brush on the left side of the road. As it crossed, there was no doubt whatsoever that it was a large cat. I had thought it must be a large dog when we first saw it in the pasture, but seeing the long tail and the fluid way that it was moving gave away the fact that it was, indeed, a very large cat.
The second sighting was just two days ago. My brother-in-law was mowing the sides of the dirt road we share when he saw a very large brown/black cat with what he thought were stripes of some kind run across the road in front of him. He said that it was definitely much larger than a bobcat, and had a long tail.
Having seen one with my own eyes, I know for a fact that there is some sort of large dark brown or black cat in East Texas that is NOT a bobcat or mountain lion.
October 18, 2010
5 Miles Out Side Of Quitman on FM 69 (Wood County)
Last night my son and I were driving home and right by our house a HUGE black cat ran in front of the car and stopped in our neighbors yard. It was the size of a Great Dane. HUGE! We went up the hill and back down to take another look and it was gone. The neighbors went out looking but he was gone. The cat was sleek black and slim with a long curved tail...for sure a large cat and as large as a Great Dane. Incredible! I know it wasn't a feral pig by it's slim shape or a bear...it was very much a cat.
The neighbors said that there was a Giant black cat a couple of years back that killed some chickens and some guy watched it come in to his yard and snatched his puppy. But then it went away...now he may be back. And in the woods behind my house....neat and kind of scary! He was just so big...I just can't believe we saw it!
November 24, 2010
Argyle, TX (South of Denton). Verified by 3 people at the same time while out walking. Sighting from 20 yrds away. Cat was no more than 300 yards from I35W. Large black cat standing between 2-3 feet tall disappeared into the brush near sundown. Could not tell if it was spotted or not, certainly black though. Long tail, certainly not a dog or bobcat.
Also verified w/ a local builder at a separate time in the same neighborhood except that he saw 2 cubs w/ her.
January 11, 2011
(Arp, TX)Smith County
On three separate occasions three people including myself over a 6 year period have seen a large black cat on my property. When I say large I mean the size of say a Mastiff with a long tail at least the length of its body. I have plenty of domestic cats around and am very familiar with the movement of them as well as dogs etc. This was defiantly a large cat. Moved way to smooth and fast for anything else. Not to mention how it could jump and spring over my fence. The most recent spotting was about a month ago at dusk while putting out hay for our horses. We spotted the cat laying on the back side of my pond. We got to within 40-50 yards from it with the tractor and it jumped up and ran off. The fence line that runs with the edge of my property is very heavily wooded so there are plenty of places for him to hide. All of my surrounding neighbors with farm land have said they have seen one as well. I have never had a problem with any of my animals being harmed with the exception of one newborn colt that mysteriously disappeared the night it was born and its bones showing up a week later in my hay pasture (I blame that on coyotes) but it could have been an easy meal for the cat.
January 22, 2011
Just outside Hubbard, TX
Description: 2 long-tailed large cats sighted at dusk. 2-3 feet at the shoulder.
Dark gray/tan/brown---not really sure b/c of lighting.
Certainly not a bobcat nor a dog.
Feces of large cat discovered afterwards (leaves scraped together w/ feline feces on top).
Paw prints quite larger than grown woman's hand.
March 3, 2011
Location: Hubbard, TX
Description: Large gray cat sighted crossing road outside of Hubbard, TX mid-afternoon, no doubt not a dog, not a domestic cat. Too large in size. Tail full length of the cat's body
March 3, 2011
I guess by now you are getting the idea. I have at least three dozen other contacts claiming to have seen cougars or black panthers in various locations across Texas.* What are we to make of all this? Are all these people making things up? Are they all misidentifying some other animal? Are they all escaped exotic pets? These explanations are all very hard for me to swallow. I think there may very well be large black cats of some kind out there. What are they?
Only time will tell…
*It should be noted that many of those who shared their stories did include their full names. I have labeled all senders as "anonymous" so as to protect their privacy.