Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lions, Tigers, and Bears...In Texas?

It seems that a lot of large predators that formerly called Texas home are making a comeback here in the Lone Star State. There is also a recent report of a non-native predator making an appearance.

Sightings of big cats continue to roll in from areas of the state where such animals have long been thought extirpated. Cougars and the ever-elusive black panther top the list of big cats spotted. Cougars are known to inhabit and flourish in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas and deep South Texas along the Rio Grande River. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department continues to take the position that no wild breeding population of cougars exists outside these areas. The black panther is not even discussed as a possibility in any official capacity despite a growing number of reports.

Now an even scarier cat has been reported stalking Southeast Texas. Police in the Brazoria County town of Oyster Creek have received multiple reports of a tiger prowling the area. You can read the story about the sightings in the Houston Chronicle here. The article claims that Texas Parks & Wildlife game wardens have investigated the area but found no sign of a large cat of any kind. The TP&W must have taken the reports seriously as the article says they even broke out night vision gear trying to catch a glimpse of the tiger. If true, this would be an incredibly dangerous situation for the people of Brazoria County.

The black bear continues to make news as it seems to be finding its way back into the eastern portion of the state. Like the cougar, black bears are known to inhabit the rough and arid areas of far West Texas. Bears did formerly inhabit the piney woods and swamps of East and Southeast Texas but hunting wiped them out by the mid 1900s. Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana bear populations have exploded over the past decade and it has long been thought to be just a matter of time before they made their way into remote areas of Texas. That time seems to be now. Bear sightings, particularly in Southeast and extreme Northeast Texas, are on the rise. What is surprising is that sightings are beginning to be reported from areas in what would be considered Central Texas. There was a nice article recently published in the San Antonio Express News regarding the come back of the black bear in Texas. You can access that article here.

I would be greatly interested in hearing reports of any big cats or black bear sighted in Texas by readers.

So, keep your eyes peeled as you travel the rural roads of Texas this holiday season. You might catch a glimpse of a mountain lion, black panther, or bear. Of course, if you are really lucky, you might catch a glimpse of something even more unusual. I would like to hear about that as well.


  1. I've heard that the number of black bear sightings in NE texas was around a dozen in either 2007 or 2008 [it's been a while since I read the article so I don't remember]

    A hiking buddy of mine actually saw a black panther several years ago north of Lake Travis just west of Austin.

  2. If a 'black panther' is seen it will be a black jaguar. It has been studied and proven that there is no possibility of a melanistic cougar/puma/mountain lion. But we know of jaguars in Texas so this is possible. But it's a jaguar - NOT a 'panther'.

    Jaguar sightings are incredibly rare in Texas. To see a BLACK jaguar is almost impossible. These sighting reports have to be taken with a grain of salt.

    1. on 08/04/2014 at about 11:45PM, in Orange, Texas me and a friend were sitting on my porch looking toward my pasture tree line. We sighted and watched a large cat with fist sized spots which were the same color as the fur but a bit lighter or darker. We held a flash light beam on the cat for the entire period the tail was very long and the cat was sleek not shaggy like a bobcat. I could not tell what color it was because there was a bit of haze in the air and the flash light seemed to reflect back the grey haze that was in the air. When we looked up images the cat we saw looked like a Melanistic Jaguar. It was about 115 yards away laying inside the line of trees just past a freshly cut pasture. The cat stood up and began to walk toward my neighbors yard where there are chickens in a coop. just guessing it stood about 36 inches high and between 4-5 feet long not including the tail which seemed very long for a cat.

    2. In West Orange, next to my chicken pen, 7 turkey, 6 geese, & 1 - 1 year old heifer 9/20/14, have been killed out on our ranch. There were paw prints left in the geese pen. I took pictures of the paw imprints.

  3. I personally know that there are black bears in texas from experience. I live in lumberton, tx and right down the hill from me is the big thicket preserve with a small trail to village creek. one day while biking down to the creek to go fishing my attention was directed to my right where a medium sized blackbear was chasing a rabbit across a small open field in the woods, i froze watching the bear run across a small dry creekbed, and later heard the screeches of a rabbit in distress. my father works in the oil & gas industry and many times he has come home telling us of what he had seen that day, he says that near a pipline in tyler county he had crossed a black panther on the rocky road he takes to get there, i too have seen what looked like a black panther in the woods and crossing the road near my house at night, but mostly i just cast it off as being a cougar (i do firmly believewe have those.) but the difference with his was it was in pure daylight, unlike most ive seen.

  4. I live in a small community deep on the wooded banks of the san bernard river in brazoria county. I have seen many bob cats, came face to face with a large bobcat in the woods once, true story... We actually find them dead on the side of the road sometimes, hit by a car. Also some neighbors out here are swearing up and down that they have seen a large black cat roaming the river bank.

  5. 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 Bob Cat on this property, My Dad working for the Refuge here and said he has heard of the Jaguar siting.