Reports of anomalous black cats, large in size with long tails, continue to pour in to me via email, comments to posts, Twitter and Facebook. I need to catch all of you up on these reports and thought I would work backwards to do so. What I mean by that is that I will be presenting the latest reports to you first and, over the next several weeks, get you caught up on the backlog.
Before we begin, let me repeat a few things that I have said before. I know that there is no such animal as a “black panther.” The known big cats that have been given this moniker are either African leopards or New World jaguars exhibiting melanism. So, when I use the term “black panther,” realize it is a colloquialism, a catchall phrase, if you will, that is commonly used in Texas and the Deep South to describe any large, black or very dark, long-tailed cat.
Now, on to the reports
“I do realize this post was intended to debunk a lot of story of "black panthers," but I have to share something that happened to me, my boyfriend and my husky last night. We were at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in West Plano and it was dark out (bad idea) - about 7:30 pm. We were only on the trail about a quarter mile before we saw a LARGE black cat walking towards us, about 200 ft. ahead of us. It was about the size of a German shepherd and had this incredibly slow, sauntering walk. It didn't have a care in the world that we had seen it or that we were right in front of it. It halted for a moment when it first saw us, then slowly walked towards us. We could definitely make out what it was because the parking lot lights behind us were still nearby and illuminating the trail. We turned around after being frozen for a solid 10 seconds and I never ran so fast, probably a bad idea in retrospect to run. I know it doesn't make sense that a black panther/jaguar lives in Plano, but it could've possibly been someone's exotic pet that they released in the Preserve. I don't know, but I'm ABSOLUTELY positive of what we saw.”
TCH Comment: An interesting account to be sure. I would be interested to hear how the husky reacted to the presence of the large cat. Surprisingly, the Plano area is a hotbed for sightings of large, black cats. The Arbor Hills Nature Preserve mentioned in this report is very close to other reported sightings. I would like to make clear that I am not trying to debunk reports of black panthers. I am simply following the evidence trail where it leads me. If anything, as time goes by, I am more and more convinced there is a legitimate mystery here regarding these cryptid cats that needs to be solved.
“This is the first time I have seen this sight. I live in Wills Point,Texas. (Van Zandt County). Was at home by my cabin on a small lake (4 1/2 acre lake) in late spring or early summer of 2012. Around 2:30 pm as I was fishing from the dock I saw from the corner of my eye what I thought, at first to be a large brown dog. It walked behind some tall grass at a slow but steady gate. I looked away for a second until it emerged from the grass. I turned to look at it and realized it was a large cat. At first I told myself, "That's a really big bobcat. But, no it was way too large and didn't have spots. It was medium to dark brown. It was unmistakable as a cougar. The long large tail that hung down and curled back up at the end and the round head with a short muzzle was enough to be certain. I had never seen a cougar that dark. And the time of day seemed unlikely. My landlord/friend has six young grand kids running around the lake. His and his son's houses are on the lake as well. So I made sure I told him. Even though I was afraid he would think my cheese had slipped off my cracker. I was cocerned for his grandkids. Turns out the cougar had been seen around his Son in laws & daughters house too. About three miles from the lake. The Van Zandt county sheriff department has 20 to 30 reports of livestock losses from big cats per month, according to our newspaper. I was surprised.”
- Johnny Marchand
TCH Comment: I find Johnny’s sighting very intriguing. He seems absolutely sure that the animal he saw was a cougar but stresses that it was an unusually dark brown. I feel strongly that at least some “black panther” reports can be attributed to sightings of cougars sporting unusually dark coats.
“I live about 45 minutes south of Brazos Bend. I've seen a large cat three times in the past couple of years crossing the road. It's not much larger than a bobcat, more lean and longer, with a very long tail. It appears black until the light shines on it and then I saw that it was actually spotted. I've also heard what sounds like a woman screaming at night.
We have a lot of wildlife in this area so I'm not sure if the numerous goat deaths are from that cat or coyotes. And I'm not sure if I've seen the same cat several times or if it was more than one cat. It looks like the photos I've seen of the jaguarundi.”
TCH Comment: Brazos Bend State Park is located in SE Texas in Fort Bend County. Mainly, it is known for an abundant alligator population but it is a rich habitat that supports all manner of wildlife, including possible prey species for a large cat like white-tail deer, raccoons, otters, beavers, opossums, rabbits, etc. The witness mentions that the animal he saw looked like photos of jaguarundis he has seen online; however, his description does not seem to fit that species. His report of a lean and long cat fit the jaguarundi bill but the spotted coat and size reported (larger than a bobcat) do not. I’m not sure what this gentleman saw but I am pretty sure it was not a jaguarundi. Due to my doubts on this one, I will be leaving it off my black panther distribution map.
“4445 Rock Quarry drive. 1/16/16 15:50 gray coat, short tail with black tip, full beard, looked right at me, 30 yards. Right to left. Saw entire left side. Looked female. Very healthy looking.”
TCH Comment: No cryptid cat here, this is a classic description of a bobcat. These wildcats are not an uncommon sight even in urban neighborhoods. Sounds like this bob was a very pretty and healthy specimen.
“I Live in Eustace,Tx. about 18 years ago I was walking from my sisters house next door to my house about 3 am and out if the corner of my eye say what I thought at first was a large house cat. Turned instinctively to look and realized is was bigger then a normal cat. And then the mom stepped off the grass onto the white rocked part of the road. She had been there the whole time and I never saw her till she got on the road. She was only about 10 feet away. I was scared to death I continued to walk sideways to my house, keeping my eyes on her and not turning my back to her. All she did was follow me. I assume just to make sure I was not a threat to what I now know was her cub. She was so gracful had I not been so scared I would have been in awe. I Contacted everyone I could and finally found a tracker. He said she was a black jaguar,and had been interbreed because her first two claws did not retract and she had a cub. There was also a mountain lion that had made a den about 150 ft from my back door. Our area is heavily wooded. We spot her or her cub just for a secound every few years. only heard one once last year for a few seconds and have never seen the mountain lion yet. They said she travels about a twenty mile radius and when food depleted she goes to the next area and returns every few years. She only takes down small animals, chickens, turkeys,goats and maybe cats. Small price to pay for such a beautiful creature. In my opinion.”
- Kristi ********
TCH Comment: Eustace sits in Henderson County roughly 40-50 miles SE of Dallas. Cedar Creek Reservoir and Purtis Creek State Park are in the immediate vicinity as are numerous private lakes and stock ponds which provide plenty of water for a number of wildlife species. The county is rural and there is plenty of room for a predator of the size described to live and thrive. This account is interesting as a cub was involved. Kristi never mentions the color of either cat directly but does say a “tracker” felt she had seen a black jaguar. Based on that statement, I am going to assume the animal was very large and black. The rest of this “tracker’s” statement about the big cat having been some kind of hybrid between a jaguar and a cougar is nonsense, in my opinion. The basis of this theory being based on claw marks being found in a print is false logic. It is true that cats can and do have retractable claws but they do leave claw marks in tracks from time to time. While I find the tracker’s comments less than credible, I have no reason to doubt Kristi’s sighting report.
“About 5 years ago, maybe 2010-11, saw medium size black cat that looked like small panther run up from the east Bosque riverback. The cat was chasing a bird that was flying just few feet above the ground. The cat ran across my lane of traffic on Lakeshore Dr.(Waco,TX). The cat was a very dark black color, about 2.5' to 3' long, guess about 25 to 35 lbs, long black tail. The cat's head was rounded shape about size of typical cantaloupe. Later saw picture of a jaguarundi cat on internet, the cat looked like that species.”
TCH Comment: The description of the witness sounds a lot like a large domestic cat to me except for the estimate of the cat weighing 25-36 lbs. If he is accurate in that estimate, this was no feral/domestic. A jaguarundi certainly needs to be considered as a suspect here. The area described is on the E-NE side of Waco and gets rural and wild pretty quickly. There is a lot of brush, wooded areas, green belts and water sources along the Brazos River, Bosque River and Lake Waco shoreline. Certainly, there is enough suitable habitat to support a cat the size of a jaguarundi.
“I moved out by Churchill bridge in Brazoria, by the San Bernard River, I was looking out my kitchen window and saw a Black Cat, I was thinking, Wow he is Big, then it turned and started slowing walking and I saw how big, and a long tail, really cool looking too, He moved so slow like a wild cat would, I could not get my camera fast enough to snap a photo, Also saw a big bobcat on this property, My Dad working for the Refuge here and said he has heard of the Jaguar siting.”
- Dianne Harwood
TCH Comment: If there is ever an area where a cat the size of a jaguar could survive it is likely in the area of this sighting. Brazoria sits in Brazoria County and the spot of this visual is sandwiched between the Brazos River to the north, the San Bernard River to the south and the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge and the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area to the east. The area has ample water and potential prey species, including the endangered Attwater’s prairie chicken, a type of ground-dwelling grouse. Rumors of large, black cats, like the one described by Dianne, are common in SE Texas.
“I can tell you for sure there are large cats roaming all parts of Texas. In fact I saw a Black Panther about 7 years ago right out side of Alto, Texas. It was about 10:30 pm on a very dark night. I was driving out of Alto about 3 miles on hwy 21 headed East. As a large truck passed me I turned on my high beams. Less than a foot off of the road on my side it looked like two large black garbage bags. When I spotted it I was about 150 yards away. That cat didn't move accept for it's head turned towards me. I saw it's yellow eyes and I was totally shocked. We have owned property in that area for 25+ years. I have seen small cats every once in a while. If you go to the feed stores in the area the ranchers will tell you they see cats all the time. That night I saw the Black Panther I called Texas Parks and Wild Life and reported it. I was told these large black cats are reported every once in a while.”
TCH Comment: Alto is a small town in Cherokee County in east Texas. The Davy Crockett, Angelina and Sabine National Forests are all nearby as are numerous wildlife management areas. While Alto does not sit directly in any of these forests, it is in the heart of the Piney Woods region of Texas. The entire area is heavily wooded and rural. Tales of screaming black panthers from this area go back decades and locals will tell you in no uncertain terms that they are real. The description of yellow eyes is interesting. I have had a number of people use this description when talking about the eyes of a black cat. Since this sighting took place at night, it is possible this was some kind of eye shine and not the actual color of the cat’s eyes; still, the yellow eyes description pops up often enough to make me wonder.
“A few months ago I had a large dark brown Cougar/Mountain Lion walk across the highway in front of me at 10:30 AM on a Saturday. The big cat was only 20 feet away when it went into the ditch and under the fence into dense underbrush. This sighting was about 2 miles south of FM 1093 on FM 723 south of Katy, Texas. The animal was heading in a westerly direction. I estimate it to weigh 75-100+ lbs.”
TCH Comment: This would be news as the Katy area is heavily populated and continues to boom. Do not let that fact fool you, the Brazos River cuts through the area only a mile or so south of this location and the landscape gets pretty lonesome pretty fast in that direction. A big cat could easily have been using the river as a travel corridor and ventured off course to explore or look for food. If the witness really was only 20 feet away they obviously got a good look at this animal. The estimated weight of 75-100 lbs. rules out any domestic/feral cat or jaguarundi. The cat being described as “dark brown” is interesting. Most people know the golden, tawny hue of a typical mountain lion. This description tells me that this cat did not look like that. A cougar with a significantly darker than usual coat could easily be mistaken for a black animal in low light conditions. This could certainly explain at least some black panther reports.
“I have most certainly seen a large black cat in Dayton, TX. It was night time and my friend and I were in a field. We heard something so I shined the light over, and there it was just a couple of feet away from us. It turned and bolted extremely fast, but I’ll never forget how big it was or how long its tail was. Sighting was around September of 2010.
TCH Comment: This is a pretty typical account that comes from an area of SE Texas with a long history of black panther reports. These anomalous cats are not considered anything unusual in this part of Texas. The description of a long tail would rule out most other types of wildlife and the witness clearly seemed rattled by the size of the animal. One has to wonder what that cat was doing creeping up so close to this witness and his friend. He might be very fortunate that he turned the light on the cat when he did.
Please continue to report sightings of these phantom cats to me. I continue to work hard on my black panther distribution map and look forward to being able to share it with you all soon. It is a labor of love but a labor, nonetheless and, like most all of you, I have a lot of irons in the fire daily and time to work on it is hard to come by. Throw in the fact that about the time I get it up to date, another half doze reports comes in and it is almost a never ending cycle of updates. Still, it shouldn't be long.