When I first started this site I figured that I would end up discussing wood apes more than anything else. While it is true that these mystery primates are discussed quite frequently here, I have been mildly surprised that over the years that I have received far more emails, texts and comments about sightings of a different mythical creature. Like the wood ape, this animal is not supposed to exist. Still, sighting reports continue to pour in on a weekly basis. The animal in question, as long time readers have surely guessed by now, is the black panther.
Following are messages I’ve received from readers over the last few months detailing encounters with these anomalous big cats. As in the past, most of these reports have come to me in the form of anonymous comments in response to posts I’ve made on the subject. That being the case, I’ve been unable to follow up on most of these sighting reports. I cannot absolutely say that each one of these folks who’ve taken the time to write a comment or send in a message is telling the truth or didn’t misidentify some other known species but the stories are quite fascinating. The following are the reports I’ve received over the last few months exactly as they were sent to me.
“In the 60's Forest Cove sub division off Hwy 59 & Hamblen Rd...My dad would go out in the woods at night with a friend and play a recording of a wounded rabbit..They were looking for black cats.. also the exit from Hamblen Rd. onto Hwy 59 north to New Caney was called black cat ridge...how u like them apples. those little darlins have been around for a long time!!!”
TCH Comment: While this is not a sighting report per se, this reader does bring up an interesting fact. Many geographical features in the state of Texas have names that imply they were named after real creatures that live/lived in the area. Some of these creatues are not supposed to exist. There are numerous examples; Panther Creek, Black Cat Ridge and Hairy Man Road just to mention a few.
May 23, 2013
“In 1991 I was driving by Lake Hawkins in the Fouke community which is about 20 miles south of Quitman in east Texas. It was about 3 a.m. and I saw just the very back tail part of a large black cat crossing the road and there were 3 cubs prancing along in a straight line behind it into the woods. They were definitely of the wild and were in my opinion black panthers. Not anything else but, black panthers.I am now 55 years old and was at the time 33. I grew up hunting and fishing all throughout Wood county and heard tales of the black panthers from all the old time hunters and back woods folks. It was said you could hear them screaming in the night sounding like a woman's scream. This was in the Lake Fork river bottom and the Sabine river bottom. There is no doubt in my mind they existed in 1991 because I saw them with my eyes. They probably still exist. I sincerely hope so.”
- Vester Skiles Austin, Tx.
TCH Comment: This entire eastern part of the Lone Star State is rich with tales of screaming black panthers. This sighting is unique in that it involved cubs. This is only the second sighting of which I’m aware where young cats were also sighted.
“Just seen a cat in front of me on my deer lease off FM 2090 Splendora, Tx, dark grey hair around 50lbs, 4' to 5' with tail, running. hair was longer than a cougar and solid. This would make twice, last glimpse I put it off as a coyote.”
TCH Comment: This is one of those sightings that falls into the “tweener” category. It is too small to absolutely rule out a bobcat (the color would be right though the presence of a tail would not be) as the culprit and too large for a jaguarundi. The witness fails to mention the time of day when the sighting took place so I must assume that a dawn/dusk and/or nighttime encounter is a possibility. If so, then low light conditions could have made determining the color of the animal a bit more tricky.
“Black Jags are alive and well in the Southern parts of the state. I know this because a fist hand account of an attack on a horse in Bastrop Co. I don't think Tx Parks and Wildlife will ever admit they exist though...”
TCH Comment: I would like to hear more about this first hand account of a horse kill. I’m assuming “first hand” means someone actually witnessed the attack? Please contact me via email at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com and we can set up a time to visit.
“These cat are big and fast with long tails. They like to come out at night so many people don't see them often. I walked up on one in Conroe, Tx it was only 20 ft away when it noticed me. In a matter of seconds it was able to cover 150 yds with its undulating rolling fluid movements that still to this day stand out as the most amazing thing I have ever seen in the wild. Bigger and much leaner that jaguars or mountain lions I think it might be a cross between the both.”
TCH Comment: I get a lot of reports from the Conroe area. While highly populated, Conroe is adjacent to the Sam Houston National Forest from which many reports of big cats and other weird goings on originate.
“I was at work driving on site. I saw a large cat running across the road, my first thought was a very large bobcat. But it was at least 2 foot tall and 3 foot long, it was dark brown. I am sure it was some sort of cat by the way it ran. It was in the Spring area.”
TCH Comment: Spring, TX is basically just a continuation of Conroe which, as has been previously mentioned, is an area from which I receive many reports. This report could be one of mistaken identity. Obviously, I was not present but the dimensions described, if off at all on the small side, could point to a large domestic/feral cat. The dimensions and color, if accurate, could point to a jaguarundi as the culprit though these weasel-like cats are not supposed to live so far north.
“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.”
TCH Comment: Precious little to go on here. The witness fails to mention where he was when the alleged sighting occurred. The witness does strongly assert that he has no doubts the cat he saw was a black panther so I assume it must have been a large animal.
“We frequently see(at least twice a year) a large black and somewhat spotted cat on my ranch in Llano County. All of the sightings of the cat have been along a seasonal creek that runs across the front part of the pasture. It just always is a little too quick to get in to the thick brush and disappear before I can get a shot on it. The cat seems to be just slightly smaller than most of the mountain lions we have seen but the tail is much longer and fuller than a mountain lion. These sighting have been going on for at least 20 years, so I would suspect there is at least a breeding pair in the area. And as of recent my wife and I both have spotted in the same area what we believe to be an Ocelot.”
- Joe Long
TCH Comment: I’ve never really subscribed to the melanistic jaguar as the creature behind most black panther sightings. After all, while not uncommon, melanism in jags is still the exception rather than the rule. That being the case, if people were seeing jaguars then the much more common spotted individuals should be reported much more often than solid black cats. In this case, however, a melanistic jaguar seems the most logical choice. While Llano County is centrally located in Texas there really isn’t too much between it and Mexico. Lots of open country and relatively lightly populated areas. Llano County sits close to what would be considered the Texas Hill Country, too, which has generated quite a few black panther sightings.
The ocelots would be a great find. They are not thought by most to get much farther north than the Rio Grande Valley and they are very rare even there.
“I was inspired by this article to revisit a sighting I had on the Little River National Wildlife Refuge in southern OK in September 2009. Ironically, I guess, I was in the area to attend the Texas Bigfoot Conference; this was a "field trip" on the first day of my stay.
An animal that looked like a cat, rust-ish colored, crossed the road, quickly, in front of my car. After it entered the woods I never saw it again. I would have thought bobcat, but for the long tail. Cougar, no way. Canid, no way. (Domestic cat: NO WAY.) I got absolutely no look at the head (when first seen the animal was quartering away from me; this, to me, seems to indicate a small head).
I thought the legs were too long for jaguarundi, really my only other suspect. That is, I did until I looked at internet photos of jaguarundi after reading this article. That, I'm now convinced, is what I saw.”
TCH Comment: This witness seems to have answered his own question. No surprise since he was intelligent enough to attend the NAWAC’s annual Texas Bigfoot Conference, haha. In all seriousness though, a jaguarundi as far north as Oklahoma would be quite a story IF we could prove it.
“I saw one 2 years ago in Sherman, Texas. I had a witness. Driving with the top down at 15 mph to avoid potholes, it ran across the narrow road arched its back and darted back where it had come from. It had yellow eyes and dark spots but it was black. No question it was a black jaguar or panther. Long thick tail, the height of a Great Dane . It was thin, but the body was long and legs stout. The street was Loy Lake in Sherman, near my home”
TCH Comment: Donna’s description sure matches that of a melanistic leopard or jaguar. Surprisingly, a very high number of sightings originate in north Texas. This includes many sightings from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
“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 jaguarundi crossing HWY 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 crossed the road going toward the river bottom”
TCH Comment: Many might dismiss this witness because he has had “too many” encounters. That could be a mistake, I believe. The areas where he claims to have lived are rich in sightings of the very animals he describes. Add that he is a science teacher and you have a witness who likely is a little more aware of wildlife and what is supposed to live where than another citizen.
“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.”
TCH Comment: Another jaguarundi sighting. While not a true cryptid, a jaguarundi would definitely be considered out of place as far north and inland as New Braunfels.
“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.”
- Shirley Crow
TCH Comment: Very matter of fact type of report. The list of big cat candidates that can measure four feet in length head to tail and be black in color is pretty short.
“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.”
TCH Comment: The report of a long bushy tail is interesting and unique. “Bushy” is not a term usually associated with cat sightings. Could this have been a canid of some kind? Either way, if the animal was as large as a deer it is formidable.
“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.”
TCH Comment: This area of Texas is Big Thicket Country. The belief in large black panthers in this part of the state is almost 100%. To most folks living in this part of Texas long-tailed black cats are just part of the local fauna. Not that unusual at all.
“This happened about a month ago on my dads ranch in Cherokee County. I had been up there for about a week and left the day prior to my dads phone call telling me he saw not just one but two cougars on our pipeline. These weren't black cats but none the less, TPWD is insistent that no cougars are in that area. My grandfather bought the land in 1951 and over the years he had seen 3 cougars, 2 of which were black. If you knew my Pops you would know that he saw what he says he did. Heck, 2 seasons ago I was tracking a hog on my cousins side of the fence when I heard some rustling about 20 yards in the bushes from. I saw 2 black backs and immediately thought, "alright, more hogs". I raised my gun and aimed at the opening they were running towards. When one broke off and headed to the creek bottom but the other came out no more than 20 yards in front of me. We it wasn't a hog, it was a huge wolf. And I know, its not supposed to be there and TPWD would tell tell me it was a large coyote or hybrid. But you can going to tell me that I didn't see a wolf. I grew up on that ranch and know what a coyote looks like. Point being is that you never know what your going to see in those East Texas woods. And by the way, I never took a shot at the wolf. I lowered my wolf and watched him run off. Beautiful animal!”
TCH Comments: It is interesting that the witness states matter-of-factly that the black cats his grandfather saw were cougars. The cougar sighting is interesting as well. The witness is quite correct in that Cherokee County is not thought to have resident mountain lions by state wildlife officials. The wolf sighting claim is interesting, too. While not as common, I’ve had several reports of wolves in the eastern part of Texas recently.
“I lived at Lake Sweetwater, Texas (West Tx) from the time I was born in 1987 until i was 17 years old. My grandfather had lived on the opposite side of the lake from 1940-1980. His family owned all the land ans actually built the lake. His family has lived on the land since the early 1800s. Growing up i heard my grandfather tell stories of seeing a black panther while him and my grandmother were on a date making out in their car. I always thought he was pulling my leg until I was 10 years old and was camping out on our land with my two older brothers who were 13 and 16. It was right at dawn and we heard all of our animals going crazy. We unzipped our tent to look out and there it was sitting underneath the guard light by our barn eating a chicken. We ran inside the house to get my father who came out just as he was walking across our lot and my dad almost had a heart attack. It was huge, 100% black and its tail was just as long as its body of not longer. When the sun came up we went to look at its prints and took pictures. The prints were twice as big as bobcat or mountain lion prints. I know what we saw was a panther, we also have heard its screams many nights. There's no doubt in my mind there’s more than one.”
TCH Comment: This report originates from an area known more for rattlesnakes than big cats, though cougar sightings here are not unusual. This report is interesting in that it points toward a historical presence of these animals in the area. If the witness who wrote in is reading this now please know I’d love to see the photos you took of the paw prints.
As you can see, the reports continue to come in unabated. My site seems to be one of the few places people who see large black cats have to report what they’ve seen without having to worry about receiving a lecture on what is real and what is not in the animal kingdom.
I do believe I have now accumulated enough data, admittedly anecdotal in nature, to start trying to identify some patterns. More on that soon.
In the meantime, please continue to contact me regarding sightings of these black cats. Your report might just be the one that leads to discovery and documentation.