Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Black Panther Photographed in the Texas Hill Country?

A couple of weeks ago a reader contacted me saying that he thought his game camera might have captured a photo of a black panther. This gentleman lives out in the Hill Country and had his camera overlooking a deer feeder near his home. The reader attached two photos, one of the animal in question and one of some deer underneath the feeder. The deer photo was meant to provide some idea of scale. The original photos are below.





The animal in the photo is unquestionably a cat of some kind. In addition, the cat is black or, at the very least, an extremely dark brown. Despite the photo being snapped at night there can be no doubt about that. This is no tawny-colored mountain lion. A long, thick tail is clearly visible. This long tail effectively squelches any arguments that this is a bobcat. So, if it isn’t a cougar and it isn’t a bobcat…what is it?

As has been discussed here before, officially, black panthers do not exist. Science tells us that there is simply no such animal. It is true that other big cats occasionally exhibit melanism but they do not make their homes in North America. Leopards live in Africa and jaguars live in South and Central America. Black bobcats have occasionally been observed in North America and could account for some black panther sightings; however, once a witness describes a long tail, often almost as long as the cat’s body, the bobcat ceases to be a legitimate candidate. So, what are people seeing? What animal does this photo show?



The debate on what people are seeing and identifying as black panthers has been discussed here before. I’ll refer you to an article called “Lost Bears and Black Panthers” I posted back in August of 2009. In it, I discussed four candidates for the black panthers of Texas. Below is an excerpt from that post that discusses these four possibilites:

"So, what are people seeing? There are several possibilities, in my opinion. The first possibility is simply that cougars can sometimes be black. This is a well-documented trait in jaguars and leopards. Scientists have yet to see it in cougars but that doesn't mean it doesn't occur. The second possibility is that jaguars still roam the state. Texas was once part of the jaguar's natural range. The last known jaguar in Texas was killed in Brownwood in the 1940s. It is thought they may still haunt the state's southern border but are not thought by wildlife experts to range into central or east Texas. One more possible candidate for the black panther sightings is the jaguarundi. The jaguarundi is a relative of the cougar but much smaller. It averages between 30 and 45 inches long and can be dark in color though, it is thought, not black. A final possibility is that there is simply an undocumented species of large black cat roaming not only Texas but other areas of the country as well."



Do any of these candidates match up to what we see in the photo? Possibly. The problem is one of scale. At first glance the cat in the photo seems to be quite large but upon further inspection maybe not. I wanted an additional opinion so I sent the photo to Chester Moore. Moore is an accomplished outdoors writer and naturalist. His Cryptokeeper website was one of my favorite sites on the internet and helped inspire me to starts a site of my own. He is currently heading up a camera-trapping project called Southern Panther Search with Terri Werner of Tiger Creek Refuge and Animal Planet’s “Growing Up Tiger.” Moore’s thoughts are below:

"Mike,

Thanks so much for sending the photo.

It is hard to get perfect scale on the cat because the position of camera in the cat shot is different than the deer shot.

The deer closes to the camera looks like a yearling doe (first year) so it is not that big of a deer.

The animal in the photo is definitely a cat and it looks the closest to a jaguarundi of any known species. It is definitely not a jaguar (no spot pattern found on the coat. Messed with it in photo shop and you could pull some spots by messing with contrast and lighting and none show) or a cougar. The body position and short legs point to jaguarundi along with the dark color.

The cat looks a little fat to me which is what threw me off. Cougar and jags are both muscular but this cat is not. Jaguarundis are not a muscular cat and after reviewing a photo of a pregnant jaguarundi it looks like that might be the case. There are definitely jaguarundis in the Hill Country despite what officials say and this is the time of year many of our predators are pregnant."




I agree that the jaguarundi is a good candidate for the cat in the photo. Moore’s points are well taken. There is only one point on which I disagree with Moore and that is his opinion that the camera was not in the same location for the two provided photos. I think the overlay below shows that the camera was in the same location for both photos. Even if I’m wrong on this, the location is not significantly different and doesn’t drastically change much of anything, in my opinion.



If this is a jaguarundi it is a pretty good find. According to the Mammals of Texas – Online Edition, “Jaguarundis live in the brush country of extreme south Texas in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties – where it is rare.” They aren’t supposed to be in the Hill Country of Texas. Then again, they aren’t supposed to be in east Texas either and Moore himself says that he has seen one near Lake Sam Rayburn.

Moore is right in that the photo simply doesn’t show enough detail to be able to say definitively what this cat might be. In addition, after studying the photo and looking at about a dozen different models of feeders at a Gander Mountain store this past weekend in an effort to better judge the size of the cat, I’ve come to the conclusion that the cat in the photo is likely not large enough to be a cougar or jaguar. I realize it could be a juvenile but the dearth of any black cougar specimens and the lack of florets, or spots, on the cat in the photo (florets are almost always still visible even on melanistic jaguars), in my opinion, lends credence to my opinion. That leaves two possibilities: a jaguarundi or a domestic/feral cat.



I don’t really believe that this cat is a domestic. I think it is too big for that. I think the animal in the photo is most likely a jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi). If so, it is an exciting development. If the cat is pregnant, as Chester Moore suggested, then that is even more exciting. Not only would there be a jaguarundi where it is not supposed to be but there would be a breeding population of jaguarundis in a region where they are not officially recognized.

Please keep sending in your accounts of black panther sightings and any photos you might capture. Pieces of anecdotal evidence like this could help people like me know where to investigate and best place their cameras. This, in turn, could lead to the clear video footage or photograph that could prove these large cats do exist and roam the Lone Star State.

Again, let’s work together and get this done.

64 comments:

  1. Due to darkness it is difficult to guess. But I thought it is bobcat.

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    1. I have to strongly disagree with you there. A long tail is clearly visible, especially in the zoomed image, which would rule out a bobcat. The tail is coming back toward the camera so you don't get a long profile look at it but it is there.

      I can't tell you for sure what this cat is but I feel certain it is not a bobcat.

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    2. I mountain lions/puma/cougars do come in black...

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    3. Actually, they don't. There has never been a confirmed melanistic (black) cougar/puma/mountain lion.

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  2. I do remember seeing a big black cat that was bigger than goat at 50 yards out when I was a around 25 years ago at my friends ranch near Del Rio. So I do believe there are big black cats in Texas I just couldn't tell you which kind I saw that day.

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  3. yes there are black [cats] of some size i live in far western ky. have seen many in the river bottoms and swamps

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  4. Twice I have seen a black cat looking animal with a thick tail on my Hill Country property in Ingram, Tx near Kerrville. Initially I thought it was a cat, or maybe a squirrel. But I ruled out the squirrel because of it's cat like movements and thick long tail. However it was never seen by anyone but myself.

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  5. Up until the mid 80s there was a family of large black cats living near Thicket, Tx ( southeast Texas). I was a young child when these sightings were taking place so I do not have a clear memory of seeing one. However both my parents and grandparents as well as aunt and uncle saw the cats on numerous occasions. My father hit one with his car one evening on his way home. He did not stop because he did not have a gun in the car with him. So he went home to get a gun and then returned to where he had hit the cat. When he got there the cat was gone. The location was only about a 1/2 mile from our house. The cats would even come up close to the house. I can clearly remember the sound it makes. It sounds like a woman screaming.

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    1. I grew up in Thicket, and saw one while rabbit hunting with two of my cousins... I agree, their "scream"is hair raising! Also saw one crossing the road one evening near HoneyIsland...

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    2. I once heard a "grrrr" sound coming from a field across the street in north Texes.

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  6. I have lived in Gatesville tx for years, me and a buddy of mine spoted 1 just out side of there it freaked me the hell out.

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    1. We live in Gatesville Texas too and about1 1/2 months ago a friend and I were hiking on her heavily wooden property just outside city limits and we both saw a black cat that was about 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. It was not a regular house cat.

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  7. This looks to me like a jaguarundi. I have taken a rare photo of a jaguarundi in Brazos Bend State Park near Houston. It was confirmed by a TPWL employee. So yes I do believe they could have roamed in the Hill Country too

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  8. I am a property manager at an apartment complex in Northwest Austin. Several of my residents and maintenance staff have spotted a large "black cat" similar to a jaguar in a large wooded area behind the complex.

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  9. Live in Kendall county 4 miles S. of Bergheim. Today saw a dark gray cat. Bushy tail approx 2 ft+ long. Body length looked about 4 ft or a bit more. top of back looked about or more in height of my knee. my knee with sneakers measures 22". it was walking away from me so never saw face. funny but at tails end I saw 3 or 4 black rings.Grabbed camera but battery was removed! This is 2nd time I have seen it. 1st time was just a quick glance and thought it was just a big house cat. No way!

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  10. I live in Bergheim too, and just got word today that a cougar killed two dogs in a neighborhood off of hwy 46. Animal control was called. If this things comes close to our animals, it won't live long.

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  11. I have a place off of RR-165 between Blanco and Henly,Tx in the Hill country. When leaving my north gate one evening back in Sept. I spotted a very tall all-black cat of some kind walking straight and slow across the distance of my headlights shining back into the property while I was locking the gate. Judging the distance from where I saw it walk, It appeared to be about 4-5 feet long and maybe a couple of feet or more in height. No markings and just walking straight and slow between some groups of trees. Never had seen anything like it before. Recently my neighbor had mentioned about something finding about a slain animal and that all of his goats were staying close to house. Animals are good about sensing danger from 'certain predators.

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    1. I live in Wimberley, TX. I have heard what I would describe as a womans deep throated scream,twice within two weeks. Always fairly early in the night. Sounds like a big cat to me.

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  12. I have seen a black cat smaller than a cougar or Florida posted in black water forest in North West Florida. I heard it before I saw it and it sounded like a woman screaming.

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  13. My grandparents used to live outside of Salado, TX on a large ranch and had property that backed up to Stillhouse Hollow Lake. On several occasions while hunting with my father when I was younger we would see a very large solid black cat with a long tail across one of the coves near the bank. We also saw the prints on our side of the lake and numerous times my family members would hear the screams from some sort of cat. Not sure what it was, but my Dad always said it was a panther!!

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  14. Two years ago, I heard a cougar at night. Once you hear that "scream" you will never forget that sound. It was during deer hunting season here at my ranch 7 miles Southwest of Johnson City. TX. We were able to verify it was a cougar by our game camera that was fastened to a tree near the deer feeder. Then again last fall (2012), I heard a throaty sound as if having labored breathing. It's difficult to explain, but I recognized the sound when I heard it this evening at approximately 7:10 pm. Its a beautiful evening. but my border collie and I both got startled and came into the house. We all need to be careful out here in the Hill Country.

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  15. My son and I saw one in Burnet County two years ago. The jaguarundi is a diurnal animal. Unusual for this one to be out at night.

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    1. I saw large black cat which I thought was a black panther out near lake LBJ.. it crossed the road following a deer and went down into a canyon like area full of rocks... it was near some homes.

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  16. A few years back i saw a dark colored cat, long tail much larger than a normal cat..It was walking a fenceline, was able to watch it for awhile...In between port Arthur and sabine pass at chevron ..It was before light, and in an area full of rabbits and hogs..I asked the chevron workers about it, they said it was common and most had seen it. My guess is the jaguarundi, because it walked with its butt higher than its head.

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  17. Just spotted one of these in San Angelo, Texas. It was crossing the road in the state park at 7pm April 14, 2013. I spoke to the local park rangers and the biologist and they are going out to look for tracks. It looks exactly like the picture above (not the game cam one) - long tail and too large to be a domestic cat. Small head. Definitely feline.

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  18. Just saw one last night at LSC UNIVERSITY PARK CAMPUS near Tomball Tx.
    On the hood my damn c5 corvette scared the heck out of a students mother...stood up on hind legs and looked in my window on my car...I saw it as I came and it left into the woods...pretty big 50-75lbs I would guess but not big enough to be a cougar..

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  19. Went on a jog this morning, and without a doubt, saw a black panther about 35 yards away from me. watched it for about 15 seconds, then left as i had no guns. at first i thought it was a mountain lion, but it was black like the night.

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  20. I live on Concan. We moved here from East Texas. I am a science teacher. About 29 years ago I was driving through the Trinity river bottom early one morning. A black jaguar walked right in front of my car. Once we moved to the hill country I still had early morning commutes so I got to see all kinds of unusual animals. I have witnessed two black bear near my home...one on CR 350 and one on HW 83. My husband and I have both seen jagarundi crossing HW 83 near Deep Creek. Now the large black cats...maybe black jaguar...12 years ago driving between Leakey and Camp Wood in the pre-dawn hours a large black cat crossed in front of my car and in one leap he was on top of the road cut about ten feet high to my left. About 2 years ago on CR 127 near the Sabinal river a similar black cat crossrd the road going toward the river bottom

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  21. I've encountered a jaguarundi in a friend's yard in New Braunfels right on the Guadalupe off Breztke Road. It was at night but I was able to watch the cat for close to 5 minutes while it carefully walked off. It was low to the ground like the photos suggest, definitely larger than a house cat, and reddish in color like some appear to be. After doing lots of research on trying to figure out what it was, there is no doubt in my mind a jaguarundi was what I saw.

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  22. I saw a large black cat about 4 feet long from the nose to the base of the tail. It was probably 75 pounds. It crossed Highway 187 a few miles south of Vanderpool in front on my car in June 2012.

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  23. I saw the same creature as described above. Thought I imagined it.
    It was around 8 am. It just sat there and looked at me as I drove up in my driveway. The thing is-I live in upstate South Carolina.

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  24. We live in Ferris Texas and our neighbors said they saw a black panther. They also found a goat carcass in a tree close to a creek in the woods. I don't think a bobcat could drag a goat into a tree. Any ideas on this?

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  25. Proud Army Mom, pleas contact me via email at texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com as soon as possible. I would like to discuss this with you.

    Thanks.

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  26. People assume black Panthers don't exist, however Jaguars are members of the Panthera family and there are black Jaguars so black Panthers do exist whether black cougars exist or not.

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  27. A few weeks ago, at night, I heard the "scream" of a jaguarundi or some type of large cat. Then this morning around 10:00, I saw this large, long black cat that looked the size of a deer walking leisurely down a trail. It had a long bushy tail. I live in the Canyon Lake area.

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  28. My Wife and I live about 15 miles North of Palestine, TX. A few months back she came and woke me around 10:00 p.m.. She said i thing someone has ran off our county road, I hear a woman screaming. As soon as the creature made the sound again I instantly recognized it as a sound I heard as a child on several occasions. I Would love to get the audio, If anyone has any idea to a link with the sound it would be muchly appreciated. I have searched you tube and others but nothing close to what we heard.

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  29. In the '80s I watched one run across the road in front of me and all the way through an open pasture. It was highway 69 between Kountze and Woodville. Big black cat the size of a mountain lion.

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  30. I am up in Dallas county, in the northwest city of Coppell, near DFW airport. I have heard rumors of folks seeing a large black panther roaming along the creek beds in our area at night and even in the day. The folks seeing it live in homes that back up to the creek, in the greenbelt section of the neighborhood. We have lots of bobcats in this area. But this is no bobcat because it has a long tail and is a large cat, much larger than a bobcat. If it isn't a panther or jaguar, then maybe it is a jaguarandi -- but it's here.

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  31. Fantastic blog, first time am seeing this black bobcat ,interesting post.Hunting in texas

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  32. I saw one that looked a lot like that photo of the jaguarundi in the Salado Creek area of San Antonio this evening

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  33. My wife saw a large black cat last night in Tyler county about ten miles out side of Woodville, I saw the same thing about about three months ago. www.mowersgraden.blogspot.com

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  34. I saw a big black cat around 2005 in N. Austin Suburb. It scared the crap out of me. I was walking on a bike path covered in trees at dusk when a giant cat (aprox the size of a golden retriever) crossed the path about 30 ft ahead. It was so intimidating I stopped while it looked at me, then I slowly turned away and walked off. I always thought maybe someone had an exotic cat illegally and let it loose. But I think I saw a Jaguar- It was pure black, no spots.

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  35. I have seen many black cougars in Oak Cliff TX. They seem to have long red claws and attitudes.

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  36. My mother-in-law lives west of Stonewall. A few years ago she saw a black cat (4-5 ft body length, tail another 4 ft long) crossing a field alongside 290, close to the Pedernales. She thought she was going crazy. I researched jagaurundis, but she said it was much, much larger and solid black.

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  37. Northeast Texas, Fannin County. This area known as "The Wildcat Thicket", and also for Sam Rayburn home in Bonham and the Lee - Peacock fights near Trenton, TX. We have seen this black cat with a tail as long as its body on Sept. 25th at 10pm and about a year ago. We also see bobcats, which have longer legs and a different walk.
    Like many other people at first you ask what was that?
    We can hear the bobcats (more than one) at the same time this week. They have a mating cry, sounds like a
    screaming cry. I looked on-line for animal sound, after
    after hearing it in the woods. You can hear them twice a year spring and fall. I love the country and wild life!!!

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  38. I had seen a large black cat chasing a deer while I was hunting on Oct. 21, 2012. This was in Murray, KY off of Boat Wright Trail. It was only 65 yards from my stand and I was able to see it for about 8-10 seconds.

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  39. I moved to Wise County ,Texas in 1998. While sleeping with the windows open one night, I was awakened by a scream outside. The scream sounded like a frightened woman. Seven years later in the spring of '05 while watching new neighbors large black lab roam my east field , I scared him of with BB gun 200 ft. A few days latter he returned ,so I thought I would shoot up in the trees ,above him with bird shot. He went north across my field ,so I went in house to get gun and on returning watched for him to return along tree line of east hay field. Not long did something black appear in my neighbors field to the north. Where this animal came from is a known game trail. My neighbors field is not planted ,so it is very brushy. Next I saw a black tail above the brush and weeds. The brush was three feet tall. I realized this was no tail from the black lab. Next out of the brush came the rounded head, then the long neck, and long body. Even with the gun in my hands and three shells ,I was scared. This animal was solid black and similar in size to a mountain lion. I didn't shoot, and watched it disappear into my east field tree line at a trot. The next day I went to see if any tracks were left ,just to make sure I wasn't dreaming, and there they were. Now 8 years later my neighbor lost many young goats. This cat was not a bob cat or a large domestic. This was a massive cat and twice as long as the dog I had been watching.

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  40. Love this site! I live in Clay Co. in Texas, close to Wise Co. 15 to 20 years ago there was a pair of black "mountain lions" or so people thought. We have bobcats and mountain lions here. Recently a neighbor and I were talking about a mountain lion I had spotted by my house. He asked me if I had seen the black one. He had spotted one just recently. I am starting to wonder exactly what it was. I know the one I spotted years ago was bigger than your jaguarondi. The head didn't look the same either. I wouldn't have thought about it being a jaguar until talking to a hunter friend who said he thought there were jaguars in Texas.

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  41. So, with science telling us they don't exist, millions of man hours spent in the woods by hunters every year with no photos or "panthers" killed, and hundreds of thousands of game cameras running year round all over and not one confirmed photo...........

    I suppose bigfoot is out there too.....

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    1. Actually you are completely wrong. Jaguars existed in their habitat from South America through Central America and Mexico to as far north as texas or Arizona. The last ever jaguar to be killed in texas officially was in 1940. I do not recall where in texas or the mans name however you can look into it on Wikipedia. There were other jaguar kill before this in the early 1900s. They are now declared officially extinct by the government. There however has been numerous signings since with this site as proof. I lived outside of McKinney texas and both my mother and father have sworn they have seen one multiple times. I myself have seen it once run across the road. It was like nothing I haver ever seen before. There are multiple pictures such as those posted on this site. Jaguarundis are however not extinct they are on the endangers species act list and live in south texas. The large bulk of these sightings may be black jaguarundis which are like small jaguars

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  42. My grandfather and I,on our family's ranch in Lingleville Tx. (About 75 miles south west of Ft.Worth) saw a black cat with a long tail while feeding cattle. My great grandfather always took stories of seeing on on occasion. I'm a believer. There's no doubt in my mind of what it was. There around.

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  43. I seen a black panther off of CR 1112 in Cleburne, Texas back in 1998. It was crossing the road. No doubt to what it was.

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  44. RaW read Black Panthers, Little Known North American Treasure

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  45. Hate to spoil the ridiculous rantings here, but did anyone else consider that the animal in the picture is simply a white-nosed coati, which, though uncommon, would not be as absurd as jumping to the conclusion that jaguarundis have somehow not only overcome their Texas extirpation but have also expanded their range into country which, based on ALL current knowledge, is inhospitable for them?

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    1. Not spoiling anything. There are already confirmed (by game wardens) sightings of them here near Concan. Also in the Utopia area. If Coyotes can migrate to CANADA what on earth would make someone so narrow minded as to think the jaguarundis might not be farther north???

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    2. I sure did consider that, and as a wildlife rehabber, I can say you are wrong. I saw one in Wichita Co. a few years ago, and I saw it's face. It was a jaguarundi, not a coati. Hate to rain on your mainstream academic biologist inspired parade. It always amuses me what the biologists say can't be, and then we find out that it is indeed. Just because YOU haven't seen one, doesn't mean it doesn't exist here. I documented the western most range of the Three Toed box turtle in this state as well, 100 miles farther west than the academics say it is on the range maps, and it has yet to be credited to me because some stuffy academic didn't find it yet so he could publish on it. That's how that game is played.

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  46. A jaguarundi or coati can weigh up to 20 lbs. The large black cat that I saw weighed about 60-70 lbs.

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  47. I was walking with my two German Shepherds out in my back pasture one morning about 7:oo in January of this year~2014, when my male shepherd came to a quick stop and stood watching something about 50 yards ahead of us. When I looked up I saw a dark colored cat about 30 pounds or so, leap about 10 feet up into a tree covered with thick brush and was gone, it had a long tail. this was out fm..414 in Cleburne, Tx. not sure what it was but a neighbor up the road said his wife had a picture that she had taken earlier.

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    1. i just bought a house this year in woodbury tx . very secluded heavilt wooded no cel service so remote and saw a big blck cat 100 ft from my back door at 9 am one morning.it took off running as i opened my back door,saw very long thick tail ...neighbors tell me this is the place for the jagurundies

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  48. Hello, I recently moved to a community NE of Mckinney, TX in Collin County. I saw what I believe to be a black panther walking in the woods along the creek behind our house. It looked like it had a 3ft tail and body w/tail about 6ft. It was in the shadows of the trees & I did not see any spots. We live in a new community w/ mostly vacant lots, woods, and lakes. The person across the street said he saw one over a year ago. I'm afraid for our dog. Can they be caught and relocated? You are welcome to put up a camera.

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    1. As a wildlife rehabber, I can tell you that relocation is detrimental to wildlife, and in many cases it is against the law to do so, especially if you are not permitted by the state to do so. My advice is learn to co-exist with wildlife and keep your dog up at night. We can't just go catching and relocating any wildlife we see that gives us a small concern. You moved into Collin Co, then you moved into known wildlife habitat. Learn to live with it if you're going to move to such places.

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  49. Me, my mom, and Grandmother saw a jaguarundi crossing the road near a low water crossing in Horseshoe bay out in the thicket in the late 90s. People would see them ALL of the time in Llano and Burnet county. They have a very distinct look, very low to ground, and long with a really long tail. Huge, if not some of the most dense deer populations in the state of Texas for both counties. They could survive easily. Now with the huge increase in the hog population over the last 10 years they certainly have more than enough prey to sustain themselves.

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  50. My neighbor says she saw a black panther in the hill country the other day we live in spice wood Texas spice wood beach

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  51. Hill Country? Hell I saw one circa 2007-8 outside of Wichita Falls, crossing just south of the Lake Wichita dam. It crossed right in front of my car at night, toward the lake, and I had to stop for it because it took it's time crossing the road. I'm a wildlife rehabber. I know it wasn't a bobcat. I've seen plenty of bobcats, plenty of coyotes, etc. This was a big CAT. This thing was darker than night and had a long thick tail that was upturned and bounced behind as it walked. It was too small to be a jaguar, but larger than a bobcat. I shined a q-beam onto it as it disappeared into the reeds off the road. I didn't even know what a jaguarundi was at the time. I had never heard of them until I had this sighting and began researching it, but there is zero doubt what I saw now. It WAS a jaguarundi.

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