Sunday, February 10, 2019

Black Panthers: Final Sightings of 2018 and First Sightings of 2019

 Since the release of Shadow Cats, my book on the black panther phenomenon, I have been deluged with witness reports, emails, and other correspondence. I work full-time and do not have an assistant to help me, so I have been slowly wading through it all on my own. I am not complaining; the book has been well received and has done well. The only frustration I have had is knowing that there are people out there who took the time to contact me who have been waiting to hear something, anything, out of me. I am happy to say that I have finally caught up on all my correspondence, done my best to vet the witness reports in the queue, charted the credible reports on my black panther sightings distribution map, and replied to all the emails that did not seem to come from...shall we say, eccentrics?

The reports below represent the final credible black panther reports to reach me in 2018 and the first credible reports of 2019. I continue to be amazed at how many normal, every day folks are seeing an animal which should not be here in Texas.


Submitted 8/22/18

I hadn't given it much thought until recently but this was back in 2014 when I saw it in Liberty TX. I was headed to work and it ran across the road. It was similar in size to a Mountain lion and its tail was very long and curled up at the end. It ran from pastures to a more wooded area. It went right in front of my car so my lights hit it and it was black. Mountain lions are pretty common here and there’s one large one of typical color that’s consistently spotted on trail cams so I'm aware of what they look like and how big and the black one I saw was definitely of similar size both in length and what seems weight.”

Ariel M. Riehle


TCH Comment: I grew up in this area of Southeast Texas and can tell you that wildlife is abundant. The area has many waterways and is heavily forested. The Sam Houston National Forest sits just to the northeast with several wildlife management areas in between. In particular, the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge is just north of Liberty proper while the Trinity River runs just outside of the west end of town. While Liberty is not quite as rural as it once was, the residents here are very familiar with what is and is not unusual when it comes to wildlife. The claim that “mountain lions are common here” is interesting to me as, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that is not the case. The witness’s claim that the cat she saw was much the same size as a cougar is not unusual among people claiming sightings of these cryptid cats. Only the color prevents me from assuming this witness saw a mountain lion (the witness is adamant it was black). 

Submitted 9/6/18

I have been reading your blog for a while, and following the updates on stories. I have a deep fascination with wildlife and environmental education. I will give you a bit of background info on myself before telling you my story.”

(Biographical information withheld per the request of the witness; however, it should be noted that this gentleman gave me his full name, educational background – which included a B.S. degree and a Masters degree)

"I grew up on a cattle ranch between Elgin and Lexington, TX, and my family is 7th generation Texans, all those generations in the same area around Lexington, Blue, Taylor, Thrall, Elgin, etc. We are deeply ‘in-tune’ with the land of the area. I spent much of my adolescence hunting and walking in the woods around Central Texas and some in the Hill Country (McCulloch County) as well.

My grandfather, who was about 70 years old at the time and an avid hunter and outdoorsman himself, and I (21 years old at the time) were coming across an over-grown hayfield headed towards a post oak and mixed deciduous woods on this piece of property that had been in my family for generations. It was early afternoon, mostly clear skies. The property is about 140 acres and pretty secluded, though more people have moved into the area since this sighting took place. At the time, there was one neighboring ranch with folks living on it. The fence-line between the two places was right about where the sighting took place. We were coming across the hayfield, headed East, and were cresting a slight hill when my grandfather noticed movement at the Northeast side of the field. There was a row of round hay bales along the fence there, and he pointed out to me a low, slinky shape moving along the row of hay bales. It was definitely feline in profile, low to the ground, with a long, uniformly thick, bushy tail that was approximately the same length as the rest of the body. The whole cat was completely black, though the coat may have been a bit marbled- or splotchy-looking. The slight color variations could have been caused by shadows of the grass it was in, which was about 1-1.5 feet tall. We watched the animal through the scopes of our riles for approximately a minute as it moved along the row of hay bales. The whole body and tail length was a little shorter than the width of a round bale, which would make it about 4-4.5 feet long total; the top of its back stood higher than the grass, I'd say about 2 feet tall, and you could tell that it was walking sort of crouched down. We decided that my grandfather would take a shot at it as soon as it moved past the last bale. He fired a round from his .30-06, but missed. The cat kind of sprang up and took off into the woods to the Northeast. We just kind of looked at each other and went on with our hunt. We were at a loss for what we had just seen. Needless to say, the rest of our hunt was devoted to looking for cat signs. We went down to a stock tank about 400 yards from where we had seen the cat, and saw tracks of deer, hogs, and raccoons, but no cat tracks. We found no other sign, such as scratch marks, scat, or anything else.

We discussed what we may have seen and our observations matched up. The length of the tail really got us, as it seems like domestic cats (my grandfather typically has anywhere between 10-20 half-feral cats around his house) tend to have shorter tails than what we saw. And they don't tend to grow to 4.5 feet long! After our initial conversation comparing our observations my grandfather refused to talk about it and to this day is very reluctant to do so.

Thanks for your time!”


Name Withheld per request of the witness


TCH Comment: The witness is very familiar with the indigenous wildlife of Central Texas (I wish he had allowed me to print more of his biographical information) and is sure his sighting of this cat is not a case of misidentification. The observation of a “solid black” cat with a “marbled” coat is interesting and mirrors the reports of other witnesses who claim to have been able to see spots or other markings on large black cats when lighting conditions are right. At 4.5-feet in length (the round hay bales present make for a reliable object to judge scale, in my opinion) is too large for a common feral/domestic or a typical jaguarundi. The description of the exceptionally long tail sounds more like a mountain lion than a jaguar, but we all know that there has never been documentation of a melanistic mountain lion. This report is the fifth to originate in the Blue, McDade, Thrall area.


Submitted 9/10/18

“Hi, 

I live in Nacogdoches and saw a black panther a few weeks ago. A friend said there were sites that compiled reports, found yours via google. 

It was along an FM road on the east (wilder) side of the county. I was house-sitting for friends and coming back from town between 10 and 11 pm. FM 1878, which kind of jags around where you have to turn off the road you're on to maintain that number. It was past at least the first split (near Naca Valley Vinyard entrance), maybe the second. 

I saw a pair of eyes in my headlights low near the grass at the side of the road, like eating road kill maybe. I couldn't see any more of the animal and obviously started watching to see if was going to dart into the road. I was assuming something like a possum. When I got closer I could see the animal was black, and large - then I saw the tail. It was unmistakably a cat, crouched low, back bent in that feline way, tail unambiguous. It wasn't anybody's black lab out for a roam, it wasn't a boar, and it wasn't a housecat. It was big. About like the mastiff I had in length and breadth, but not as bulky. 

It was chilling. Beautiful, almost magical - something I didn't actually think was real here even though, yes, I grew up hearing stories and, yes, I know the habitat could support it. 

Date was Aug 9, 2018. 10-11 pm. FM 1878 east of Nacogdoches."

Cheers,
Elena


TCH Comment: Other than the fact that Elena is reporting seeing a huge black cat, the sighting is unremarkable. Like many other sightings, it is just an animal crossing a road or hanging out on the edges of one. Initially, I questioned how good a look Elena might have gotten of this animal as it was between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. when she saw it; however, her explanation of seeing the eyeshine and being wary it might dart out in the road in front of her car rings true to me. I have had this very same experience many times (of course the animals I saw always turned out to be deer). The fact that she slowed way down made her getting a good look at the animal entirely plausible. Too, Elena is correct that there is favorable habitat of a big cat in the Nacogdoches area. The entire East Texas region is heavily wooded, hence the Piney Woods nickname. Multiple creeks and small rivers wind through the forest as well. This sighting took place in the immediate vicinity of Waffelow Creek. Creek and river beds are natural travel routes for wildlife. Historically, this area of east Texas is rich in reports of large, black, long-tailed cats.


Submitted 10/4/18

“I reported a black panther sighting to Texas game warden two weeks ago.

I’m a home health physical therapist, so I drive up and down all the back roads but I’ve never seen a black panther?!?

I was driving from Madisonville to Huntsville going south on 247. I got about 2 miles south of fm 2989 when I saw it. I was coming over a hill and in the middle of the road eating road kill was a black animal I thought at first was a large vulture. I sped up to try and scare it, but when I got close it turned to a profile position to look at me. That’s when i realized it was a large black cat!!  It turned looked at me then slinked off into the woods.  I was going so fast I couldn’t stop in time , so I put the car in reverse but it was already gone. I’ve been down that road a dozen times since but have yet to see the black panther again.”

Steve Clark 
  
TCH Comment: Steve’s report comes from an area with multiple sightings. The area is just north of the Sam Houston National Forest and just west of the Trinity River. This all makes the area a prime location where a big cat might be able to thrive. As a matter of fact, this is the general area where a motorist claims to have struck a large black cat with his vehicle (the witness supplied me with hair samples that nobody seems too interested in examining, unfortunately). Steve’s report is just a bit too vague, however, for me to post on my distribution map. I would really like to get an estimate of the size of the cat and bit more of a description prior to posting it. Steve, if you see the or get my reply email, please contact me with those additional details.


Submitted 11/11/18

“We live in N. TX, near Blue Ridge.  Today at approximately 12:30p, my neighbors saw one of these big black cats in their pasture.  It was at a distance of about 50 yards.  They watched it for a couple of minutes, and got one photo that is about as good as an iPhone can do when shooting through a small window at that distance.

Here is the photo.  I tried to boost the colors to see it better.  The original was darker and harder to see much.  The original photo she took is an iPhone Live picture, so it has maybe 2 seconds of “video”.  The fence it is walking behind is about 42” tall, and they said the back of the animal was a little more than half the fence height, so maybe 21-24” to the top of the back.  Tail was thick and long.

I have put out my game camera and will let you know if we get any better pictures.  We have had 3 other people in our neighborhood see whatever this animal is over the past 2-3 weeks (one was ~4 days ago), so it is visiting with some consistency.  In 2 cases, it was approaching/stalking some smaller children out playing in their yard, but took off when the mother came outside.  Hopefully it does not continue to do this, as we would hate to have to kill it.

Thanks.”

Joe XXXX


TCH Comment: This account comes from an area just to the northeast of the Dallas suburb of McKinney. The area has been a hotbed for “black panther” sightings since I started the blog a decade ago. While the Dallas metro area and its suburbs are very urban, the city gives way to sparsely populated countryside quickly once outside of town. The photo provided is not good enough to provide any sort of proof; however, it does show what appears to be a fairly sizeable animal walking the brush/fence line of the property. It is true that the animal could be anything based solely on what can be seen in the photo, but the description of a tail that was “thick and long” would seem to rule out a hog (my number one suspect for misidentification based on the photo). I am going to make an exception to my rule of not posting secondhand reports (it is actually Joe’s neighbor who saw the animal and took the photo) as Joe is working diligently to get a better photo and comes across as credible. Joe, if you see this, I would very much like to see that video, short though it may be.


 Submitted 1/3/19

I don't know if you have a time frame that you consider a black cat sighting.  I just recently heard of you when you were recommended through a “Remember When” hometown Facebook page so, I thought I’d send you a correspondence of my encounter.  This is one of those things that is hard to forget. 

So here you go...back in 1979 when I was 17 years old.  I was traveling north on Highway 285 approximately 2 miles from Falfurrias, Texas.  At that time I was heading to my grandparents ranch in Concepcion Texas.  I remember it was dusk and still plenty of visibility and as I approached a curve in the road I spotted a big black cat crossing the road towards Hollywood Camp.  This all black cat crossed about 30 yards in front of my truck.  I got a good look at it as it wasn't going full stride.  It seemed to be traveling more on a side of caution while it crossed the road.  Before it effortlessly jumped the fence and into the camp property it hesitated and look towards me.  It was all black, steely eyes, large healthy cat features, very muscular in stature with a long tail.  I slowed down and pulled over on the side of the road.  I kept watching it to see it pick up speed as it reached open ground.  I could see the power in its stride.  Within a few seconds it reached the wood line and disappeared.
  
It was very similar to an encounter I had of a cougar at Big Bend National Park but it was all black like a panther.  I remember getting concerned because I didn’t think a large black cat like this would be within these parts of Texas.  My initial thought it might be someone’s pet.  My reasoning was because my older brother bought a lion and kept it as a pet.  My counter reasoning was an escape of a big black cat like this would be public news.  The silly part of me thought that’s a whole lot of bad luck with a black cat that big crossing my path.  Maybe to the contrary, it might have been good luck as I had a military career with a span of 20 years, additional 10 years as a deploying contractor where I faired very lucky within harm’s way. 
  
It has since been years and I no longer live in my hometown of Falfurrias or Texas for that matter but when I do visit the ranch which has now been left to me I find myself traveling that area with my head on a swivel in case I get another opportunity of a black cat encounter.  It’s just something you don’t forget.
  
If you consider this valid and want to add sighting to your map it was in 1979, 2 miles north of Falfurrias, Texas, crossing highway 285 into Hollywood Camp.”

Respectfully,
Saul XXXX


TCH Comment: I find this report to be very credible. As is often the case, it is simply a sighting of an animal crossing a road. The only thing unusual about it is that this particular animal is not supposed to exist. Falfurrias is in south Texas about 60 miles southeast of Corpus Christi. This account makes for the third credible sighting from this immediate vicinity. Perhaps, a mini-cluster is starting to form? The area is recognized as holding a small population of jaguarundi; however, the cat Saul described seems far too large to have been this species. The fact that the Mexican border is only 80 miles, or so, due south makes a wayward jaguar a possibility. Whatever the case, this area holds a lot of wide-open spaces in which a large cat could survive.


Submitted; 1/15/19

“I was doing some research online about ‘extremely large black cats’ in Texas while trying to find something that made sense or validated my experience in Johnson County, Texas regarding an impossibly large black cat on my property on multiple occasions and came across your blog. Have you ever heard of any black panther sightings in this area of Texas?”

Lacey ******


TCH Comment: This is not exactly a classic sighting report, but Lacey did include a photo that I am assuming is the animal she has been seeing on her property, so I thought I would share it. In answer to her question, yes, there has been at one other report from the Keene area west of Alavarado Lake. In addition, there have been reported sightings in the counties surrounding your location. Feel free to email me with additional details. Should you need any help, I’m located in Temple, less than two hours south of you.



As I wrap up this post, I find myself, once again, in an odd place. Science firmly insists that no large, black, long-tailed cat species makes its home in Texas (or anywhere else in the United States); yet, many of my fellow Texans - working people just like me who seem quite normal - are adamant they are out there and are being seen. As 2019 gets into full gear, I hope that this will be the year that this cryptozoological mystery is solved. Somehow. Some way. Would I like to be the one to do it, or at least be a part of it? Of course, I would; however, I do not feel that it is necessary. If this mystery is solved, if the identity of the black panthers of North America is revealed, then my work has been validated and that is really all I could ever hope for. 

Let's make it happen this year.

*For more information on the black panther phenomenon, pick up a copy of my book on the subject, Shadow Cats: The Black Panthers of North America. It is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online book-sellers. 

*Have there been sightings of black panthers near you? Find out by visiting my interactive black panther sightings distribution map. Click each pin that marks a sighting location for a brief description of what the witness reported.

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