Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Massive Gator Taken From Lake Livingston

According to a report on the Click2Houston website, another huge alligator has been killed in east Texas. The story, written by Hasti Taghi, details the story of a monstrous alligator that was caught and killed in Lake Livingston near the Westwood Shores community. You can access the story here.

It seems the gator was spotted multiple times by frightened members of the community. The residents are certainly no strangers to alligators but the sheer size of this reptile gave them cause for concern. That being the case, they notified the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

The TPWD contracted a trapper named David Hunter to capture and remove the alligator. Hunter was successful and managed to capture the reptile. According to Hunter, the big gator had just attacked a deer. The bull gator measured 14-feet in length and weighed in at over 1,200 pounds. The alligator was euthanized shortly after being captured. Hunter said that he had little choice in the matter as attempting to relocate a gator this size would be just too dangerous.

TPWD officials said that the drop in water levels on Lake Livingston were likely behind this big gator showing up in the residential area. According to the officials, and Westwood Shores residents, alligators are being seen far more often this summer than is typical. Texas, of course, is suffering through the worst drought in the last 75 years.

It is unfortunate that the big alligator had to be killed. I will not play armchair quarterback and second-guess trapper David Hunter on his decision to put the gator down. No doubt, it would have been a dangerous undertaking to relocate an animal this size. While the article points out that the alligator had not harassed residents or their pets, the situation was untenable. The fact that the alligator was in this area in the first place was probably because it was having trouble finding food in its usual haunts. A hungry alligator of this size making itself at home in a residential area where there are, no doubt, young children is just not acceptable.

Unfortunate? Yes. Necessary? I’m afraid so.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Word From Sir Edmund Hillary

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things – to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated.”

Sir Edmund Hillary

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Field Report: Mesquite Panther Sighting

I recently posted several new accounts sent in by readers that detailed sightings of black panthers from several areas around the state. A regular reader, Justin Horn, contacted me and volunteered to scout the area near the Dallas water treatment facility in Sunnyvale, just north of Mesquite, where a reader reported seeing a large black cat back in 2008. His report, along with several photos, he took, follows.


Earlier today, I went to check out that area where the alleged black panther sighting took place, In Mesquite, TX. As I mentioned earlier, I'm quite familiar with that area, as many years ago I lived in Mesquite. I just wanted to touch base with you and fill you in on the day's events.

I want to start by saying, I'm sure my "investigation" methods are sloppy, as I don't have a particular protocol for things like that, as you do with TBRC. I wasn't out to try and spot a cougar, as that sighting was 4 years ago (although it would have been nice to spot one!). I basically just wanted to do some basic recon of the area and give my opinion as to whether or not that area would be conducive to supporting a large predator like a mountain lion. The conclusion I came to is: Yes..... sorta.

First of all, despite only being 15 miles from downtown Dallas, the area is fairly rural. There are large tracks of heavily forested land, butting up to even larger tracks of clear cut farm land. A few large new development neighborhoods are interspersed throughout the area, but are generally surrounded on all sides by thick woods and farmland that stretches for miles. The area is abundant with wooded creeks, stock tanks, and smaller lakes. The East Fork of the Trinity River runs through the area, as well. A very large lake, Lake Ray Hubbard, is only about a mile and a half from this location. There are many food sources in the area, as even in these dry conditions, evidence of abundant wildlife was present. Not to mention, many of the farmers in the area have cattle, horses, miniature horses, goats, and sheep. An interesting note: DIRECTLY across the street from where the sighting occurred, there is a farm of miniature horses and goats, without any high fences, donkeys, or large dogs to help ward off predators. Seems ill advised if you ask me. It could be that this cat was drawn to the area by the easily accessible goats and miniature horses.

I included some pictures to help you get a feel for the type of land in the area. Unfortunately, the camera on my Blackberry does not at all capture the size of the trees or the thickness of the woods in many areas quite like it should.

Photo number 1 is a picture of a farmstead in the immediate vicinity. Photo #2 is of the goats directly across the road. Photo #3 is I'm going to guess is the large "pipe" the animal came out of, as it is the only one near the water treatment plant (and yes... the road is still full of potholes). This pipe, as you can see if you enlarge the picture, is less than 100 yards from the goats!. Photo #4 is most likely the area the animal retreated to. Heavily wooded, a creek flows through it, and there's nearly 1/2 a mile of woods before it meets the road again. The road is just a 2 lane road, and then on the other side of that road is a vast expanse of undeveloped woods. Photo#5 is where that expanse begins, and as you can see, more water there. Photo #6 is just about a half mile further down the road, where there are many ponds, and is apparently some type of catfish hatchery. That area brings all kinds of animals to the yard. I briefly took a look around for any sign of animals. I saw pig tracks and deer tracks, as well as all kinds of smaller game tracks, and of course... good ol coyote tracks. This was all in about a 20 ft area, let alone what all could have possibly been seen if I had ventured further onto the land and into the woods. I didn't take many pictures of the tracks, because I was in a hurry to get off of that land, but photo 7 shows some raccoon tracks intermingling with a few other animals, and photo 8 show's some coyote tracks.

All in all, from everything I saw I do believe it is very possible for a large predator... or even several of them, to occasionally call this part of DFW home. I'm not necessarily convinced that cougars could permanently take up residence here, as a long term breeding population of a predator of that size would no doubt decimate it's food sources after awhile. However, cougars could go in and out of this area, undetected, with virtual ease. Even when highways might cut through an area, the creeks, and even the Trinity River, itself, would provide plenty of.... "highways," if you will, to the next big track of land.

Furthermore, driving around the back roads for several hours in this area, I was able to follow large undeveloped areas (not even counting the river), that go virtually uninterrupted between there and deep into Kaufman Co. From there, there's nothing but woods and farmland standing between them and deep east Texas. It would not surprise me at all if animals were able to travel between this area, all the way to the extreme eastern edges of the state if they were so inclined. In fact, if you look at areal satellite pictures of the area on Google, you can see if you travel in a southeasterly direction, animals have basically a large clear path to east Texas.

Lastly, just a couple of interesting side notes, following the river, these animals could easily get to the Great Trinity Forest, literally thousands of acres of land near Downtown Dallas (of which the city has only purchased about 2000 acres). I have a friend who works in the dump there in the middle of that forest and claims they see bobcats and mountain lions pretty regularly. Also, if you remember that story I sent you a few months back about Bois D'arc Island in Dallas county, where bears and panthers were plentiful... Well that area is just about 5 miles down the road... and you guessed it --- nothing but farmland, sloughs, and woods between there and where the sighting occurred.

Someday I'd love to take some time and go knock on the doors of some locals around there area to ask what, if anything, they've seen in the way of wildcats.

Anyway... thanks for reading my book! lol Hope this information was at least somewhat helpful and entertaining. Keep up the good work!


I would like to thank Justin for taking the time to go and check the area out. I simply cannot get out and follow up on all the reports that come in to me. I really appreciate the help Justin provided on this one and think he did an outstanding job.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cryptids in the Bible Series: Bigfoot and the Bible

Faith: (1) Belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): Firm belief in something for which there is no proof (3): Something that is believed with extremely strong conviction; especially a system of religious beliefs.

Faith can be the greatest thing in the world. Faith gives hope to those in terrible situations. Faith provides us with the strength to get out of bed each and every morning, even when things are not going well for us. Faith strengthens our resolve in difficult circumstances and comforts us in the knowledge that no matter how badly someone has screwed up they are not beyond redemption. Faith can be powerful and wonderful.

Faith: (1) Allegiance to duty, a person, or an idea (2): Believing something or someone without question.

Faith can also be twisted into something negative and frightening. Blind allegiance to a person or an idea can make one close-minded, obtuse, and blind to facts that might point to an answer or fact that the individual is uncomfortable with for some reason. Often, blind faith leads to denial even in the face of unrelenting fact. Sometimes the reason is as simple as someone not wanting to admit they have been wrong, maybe for decades, about something. Sometimes the individual has some sort of stake in the status quo and not only wants to deny newly discovered facts but to suppress them. It is my opinion that this is part of the reason the possibility of the sasquatch actually existing is ridiculed, scoffed at, and just plain ignored by so many. For some reason, many find the possibility that we might share our planet with another bipedal hominid to be a direct assault on their faith in God. If such a creature existed then it might render their faith meaningless.

Some have not merely dismissed the possibility of the sasquatch. Instead, they have taken a different tact and looked to scripture in an effort to unearth some possible mention of the creature in the Bible. If beings matching the description of bigfoot are mentioned in the Bible, that would mean the creatures were just another animal created by God. If that were true, then the implications of evolution, Darwinism, and missing links would need not be considered at all. Those who have sought bigfoot in the Bible have presented some interesting theories based on scripture. The more commonly discussed are presented below.

One of the more popular theories is that sasquatches are the descendants of Cain. The basis for this theory emerges from the fact that Cain was cursed by God to be a restless wanderer on the earth as punishment for slaying his brother, Abel. Cain was marked by God so that any who saw him would not kill him and end his torment (Genesis 3: 10-16). One interpretation of all this is that Cain could not die and wanders all over the earth to this day. The "mark," I've heard others say, is that he was covered in hair and naked. This, obviously, matches the description of the sasquatch. If you continue with the Genesis account, however, it says Cain went on to live in the land of Nod, east of Eden, and fathered Enoch, for whom he built a great city (Genesis 3: 17). The account goes on to name multiple descendants. I've seen nothing in the description of the descendants to lead me to believe that they were hair-covered beings. Obviously, sasquatches do not build cities. Neither do I believe that every sasquatch witness has actually had a Cain sighting. The fact that Cain went on to be a builder of cities, was the father of many, apparently, normal (non hair-covered) descendents, and that the theory is dependent on Cain being the one and only sasquatch on the entire earth makes this one a stretch to say the least, in my opinion.

Another popular biblical theory is that the sasquatch species is a remnant population of the legendary Nephilim (giants) of the Old Testament. Genesis 6: 4 reads:

"The Nephilim were on the earth in those days - and also afterward- when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children with them. They were the heroes of old, men of reknown."

Many have interpreted the verse to mean that the Nephilim were not human, at least not what we would consider human, and they were breeding with the "daughters of men." Whatever the case, the Bible seems to be clearly differentiating between the Nephilim, whatever they were, and the daughters of men (humans). The fact that the two different races could mate and have viable offspring certainly supports the idea that the Nephilim were primates of some sort. It is further posited by many that these offspring would have been very large and, to some degree, giants in their own right. Could the sasquatch be a descendant of these offspring? Some think so. Again, there is precious little to go on when it comes to what the Nephilim looked like. Obviously, they were very large and must have been at least “man-like” in order to breed with human women. While nothing close to the classic description of a sasquatch is attributed to the Nephilim, with the exception of their abnormal size, there does seem to have been something very different about them that made the “fraternization” between them and human females displeasing to God. Certainly, the thought of this kind of mixing between humans and other primates is an anathema to us now. Was this always the case? There has long been an underlying suspicion that sasquatches are more than open to mating with human females. Many of the Native American tribes relate tales to this day of sasquatches who, in the past, would abduct females that wandered too far away from the protection of the tribe. Albert Ostman himself speculated that the reason he was snatched from his remote campsite in British Columbia back in 1924 was that the big male who toted him off considered him a possible mate for the adolescent female within his family group. Such theories are, of course, mere speculation but it is interesting that the idea and/or fear of such couplings hangs on to this very day.

Another biblical character that is often mentioned when it comes to this topic is Esau. Certainly, Esau’s physical attributes are described in far more detail than whatever mark God afflicted Cain with or what exactly the Nephilim might have looked like. Many lean toward the idea that sasquatches are the descendants of Esau, son of Isaac and Rebekah. Genesis 25: 24-25 tells of the birth of Esau and his brother Jacob:

"When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau."

Esau is thought to have meant hairy. Esau was also called Edom, which meant red.

Genesis 25: 27-28 continues:

"The boys grew up and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents."

The well-known story continues with Jacob tricking Esau out of his birthright and stealing Isaac's blessing for his first-born son by pretending to be Esau. Jacob tricks his father by covering himself with the hairy hide of a goat so that when his father laid hands on him he would believe it was Esau he was touching. The fact that this deception worked gives testament to how hairy Esau must have been. The reddish hue of Esau’s hair-covered body is reminiscent of the brownish-red coloration often attributed to sasquatches today. The fact that Esau is described as a skillful hunter that preferred living in the wild and the taste of wild game to camp life and less exotic fare lends more credence to this theory.

There are problems with the idea that the sasquatches seen today are the descendants of Esau, however. As is documented in the Bible, Esau used language, rode horses, wore clothing, and commanded men. To think that his descendants would have somehow devolved into beings that, by all accounts, are much more primitive is unlikely in my mind.

There are other, less popular, biblical theories floating around out there that involve beings that some believe might have been sasquatches or, at least, their ancestors. It is said that the Israelites, after making their exodus from Egypt, were pestered by rock-throwing primitives resembling apes during their desert wanderings. Rock throwing continues to be a big part of described sasquatch behavior today. Another account, now excluded from most biblical texts, is the story of a Nephilim (giant) named Og who bartered his way onto the ark of Noah in order to escape the flood that destroyed all of humanity by promising to become a servant of the family. Needless to say, this giant reneged on his promise once the waters receded from the earth and he was able to set his large feet on dry land. How he might have propagated, being the sole survivor of his race, never seems to be discussed by those who favor the theory.

I don't really put much stock in these various theories. I do think the sasquatch is more than just another animal. They are more intelligent, stealthier, more cunning, and more wary than any other animal of which I'm aware. My goal, and that of the TBRC, is to figure out what they are and where they came from (lineage). Hopefully, one day soon, we will do just that. Until then, speculation on whether or not they are the descendents of people mentioned in the Bible, surviving Gigantopithecus blackii, or a remnant population of Neanderthals will go on unabated.

I don’t really understand why people of faith are often threatened by the possible existence of this species. In my mind, the sasquatch is just another one of God's wonders. Whether the Bible does or does not mention them doesn’t matter to me a bit. Many, actually most, creatures are omitted from scripture. The Bible really isn’t the story of the animal kingdom, after all, so this should hardly be surprising. Neither does the idea that the sasquatch is closely related to we humans disturb me. The DNA of a chimpanzee is 96% identical to that of humans. Maybe a sasquatch is genetically 98-99% identical to we humans. No big deal to me. These thoughts don’t shake my faith at all.

I believe in God. I believe the sasquatch is a real living creature. I don’t think the two beliefs have to be mutually exclusive.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Readers Report More Black Panther Sightings

Here are the latest sighting reports I’ve received from readers regarding black panthers they claim to have spotted all across the Lone Star State. Most of the reports have been submitted anonymously so I can’t vouch for their veracity. Having said that, there is nothing in these particular accounts that strikes me as being a red flag. I present them as I received them.

From northeast Texas:

"I saw a large black cat in Dekalb, Tx (which is 2 1/2 hours north east of Dallas) during July 2010. There is a lot of open land and a river is close to here. I was driving and it crossed the road in front of me. I had to slow down to avoid a collision, as well as to get a good look at the creature. My wife was with me. I have done some extensive research on the topic of these cats being in this region of Texas. I would have to say that it was probably a black cougar. A lot of people refer to them as panthers in this area as well. But it was definitely not a bobcat. It was indeed a slick, smooth black coat, with a big square head. The muscular tone of the beast was spectacular. One of the biggest I have seen in the wild or captivity."

This one comes from McDade, Texas:

"Several sightings of a large dark cat. Supposedly we have a pair with 2 cubs, estimated to be last year’s offspring on the neighboring land. She could possibly have new cubs also. I live in a populated campground and I have seen it 2 times this summer and heard it scream this past week. Many pet cats have gone missing and it was seen taking a cat from a porch. Large footprints have been found as we have sandy soil. We have game cams set up trying to get a good picture."

The next report comes from Mesquite, Texas:

"Wow. I am so happy that others have seen what my daughter and I saw in October 2008. We live in Mesquite Texas right next to Sunnyvale.It was early evening around 4:30 pm. The road we were on had many potholes so we were traveling very slow, under walking speed. We were located right next to the Dallas water treatment plant when all of sudden this large black cat came out of a big drainage pipe, turned left, and came up to the road crossing right in front of my car 12 feet from us. I stopped the car and we both sat there in awe. The cat was over 5 feet long, stood 3 feet high, had a tail over 3 feet long, and was black with some grey mud dirt from the pipe. It turned towards us and I rolled up the windows. The funny part in this is when we first spotted this cat my daughter remarked, “Daddy, that’s not a bobcat,” which we had seen before in the area. Well it walked up to us and it opened its mouth and we saw its wonderful set of teeth. Large canines and a pink tongue. The cat walked closer to us and I called 911 and told them what we both were looking at and of course they did not believe us. The 911 operator told us we were looking at a large raccoon, to which I replied “With a 3 foot long tail and standing 3 feet high? Are you kidding?” She told me she would call back. The cat then stopped and I moved the car forward and we came within 4feet of it and it turned and walked halfway off the road then jumped from the middle to the far side and into the tall grass. 911 called back and told me that the local police knew of the cat."

From the Texas Cryptid Hunter Facebook page in response to the recent horse kills in Bell County:

"I'm a former student at UMHB, the university in Belton just down the road from Temple. I can truthfully state that I have seen at least on big cat up in that area late at night while driving back roads. I now live about 4 hours south of Belton and have seen big cats near the area I'm living now. Have spotted a particular black cat about 50 yards from the back porch of my house and watched him hurdle my 5 wire fence that surrounds my pasture. Just from the cats I've seen in person, I can say that I think that these horses were attacked by a big cat and nothing else."

Again, I do not know any of these people and can’t possibly know if they are all telling me the truth but find it interesting that reports of large black panthers, which are not supposed to exist, continue to roll in from all parts of the state.

What are these people seeing?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bell County Update

I thought I would take a few moments and catch everyone up on my activities this past week. If you have been paying any attention to this site at all of late you know that we’ve had some excitement here in Bell County over the last couple of months. Here is a quick rundown of where things currently stand.

Back in June, there were some livestock kills in western Bell County that got the attention of the Killeen Daily Herald and Waco television station KWTX. There has been much speculation on just what the predator might be. Theories range from coyotes, to wolves, to a mountain lion. I currently have two game cameras out on some property very near the location of the livestock kills. I have not yet captured photos of anything unusual on the property but am due to check the memory cards again at the end of the week.

Things in the area took a nasty turn last week when something attacked several horses in north Bell County. Two of the horses were injured so badly that they had to be euthanized. Again, I wrote a post on the story. Things started moving quickly at that point. One of the horse owners emailed me and included photos of the wounds suffered by the animals. We emailed back and forth a couple of times and I offered to place cameras on the property in an effort to find out just what the predator might be. Beth Androuais, a reporter from the Temple Daily Telegram, contacted me and asked my opinion regarding what the predator might be and said that the owner of the property where the horses were attacked was interested in speaking to me. She put me in touch with the property owner and I was invited to place two game cameras on the property.

This past Thursday, August 4th, I visited the property. The two horses that had been euthanized had been moved to the far back portion of the property but had not been buried. I was able to view what was left of them but between scavengers and decomposition there just wasn’t too much to be discerned. I then proceeded to walk the fence-line around the property. The barbed wire was all in good shape and I found no sign that these horses were injured by running through, or into, any of the barbed wire surrounding the property.

Sufficiently satisfied that the injuries to the horses were caused by an animal of some sort, I began to seek out possible camera locations. There is a dry creek that bisects the property that I believe is being used as a travel route by any number of animals. The creek is surrounded in several spots by large pockets of thick brush. It would be very easy for any sort of animal to travel on and off the property by using the dry creek bed. The brush on the property, and the properties adjacent to it, would also make ideal places for something to lay low during the brutally hot days we are currently suffering here in central Texas. I placed a camera in the creek bed in the hopes of catching whatever is coming and going on this travel route.

With the help of the two horse owners, an animal trail was located cutting through a corner of the property and into the creek bed. The trail went through/under a section of barbed wire fence and into a section of the creek that was surrounded by some extremely thick and nasty brush. I located two tufts of tawny colored hair on the fence. The hair was stuck on the middle two sections of barbed wire (four wire fence). The hair was short and very soft. It was almost downy in texture. Obviously, I can’t say for sure what type of hair it is but feel confident that it does not belong to a coyote, or hog. It just wasn’t coarse enough. Within twenty feet of the spot where the hair was located, right in the middle of the trail, was a pretty large scat. The scat contained hair and pieces of bone. It was white in color and about an inch or inch and a half in diameter and roughly six inches in length. The combination of the scat and the hair within twenty feet of each other convinced me that this would be a good camera location. The camera was set shortly before dark and we retreated to the home of the property owner.

I agreed to return and check the memory cards in about two weeks. The property owner also agreed to let me know if she saw or heard anything unusual before my scheduled return. The horses are being kept penned up close to the house for the foreseeable future. That being the case, I’m not sure there will be anything on the property that would draw in a large predator. Even if this turns out to be the case, I am hoping that the animal or animals responsible for these attacks will continue to use the creek bed as a travel route. If so, I will still have a chance to get the photo we are all looking for.

I’ll keep you all posted.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Latest on the Bell County Cougar Attack

I received a couple of emails from the Fisher family who owned one of the two mares that had to be euthanized after being attacked by what is believed to be a cougar in a rural area of north Temple in Bell County, Texas. Mrs. Fisher also included photos of the wounds suffered by the horses. Be warned some of the photos are graphic.

Below is Mrs. Fisher’s description of what she found the morning they went looking for their missing horses:

“My husband and I are the owners of one of the horses who had to be euthanized. We also own the 3-month filly who was orphaned after Chris Johnsen's registered paint mare, Kiki, who was also attacked had to be euthanized.

It was the most horrifying thing I ever encountered in my life. These poor mares struggling to remain standing, their skin, muscle and tendons on their front legs tore to the bone. Cola, our 6 yr. old mare, had punctures in her neck and air accumulating throughout her body. Blood drained from their body. Claw marks on their chests, their bellies on their hindquarters.

when my husband and I walked up the hill to where we could see a few of the horses, we first saw Cola standing in the distance. Our gelding, Flash, standing near her trying to comfort her, blood splatter on his hindquarters. We saw muscle and tissue and then her leg bones exposed, blood so thick on her legs it was horrifying. She couldn't walk but she continued to fight to stand.

We then saw Kiki in the distance and noticed she also had the same leg injuries. Our other gelding, Freckles, by her side. Her baby pacing, not knowing what was wrong with her mama. Freckles also had blood splatter on his left hind leg and left front leg. La'Kota, the baby, also had blood splatter on her. She had claw marks on her chest, belly and hind legs; signs showing a terrible and lengthy fight. She also continued to struggle to stand.

A third mare, Billy, was injured. She was limping on both her front legs. It was originally thought that she may injured herself running away, but further investigation into her wounds several days later, after her bandages were removed, showed deep claw lacerations below her fetlock on both front legs. Her baby, Hay Boy, also had lacerations on his chest.

What confuses us...are these several questions....can one cougar continue to fight and attack and mortally wound 2 one thousand pound horses and wound a third?

These horses were approximately 200 to 400 feet apart from each other. The attacks were in these two areas. Why attack and disable one horse and go after the other?

Most important question: What ever attacked these horses never completed one kill. These horses couldn't move, couldn't walk, couldn't run away....why wasn't the kill completed?”

There are only a handful of animals capable of inflicting this sort of damage on full-grown horses. Initially, I considered coyotes (Canis latrans) and/or a pack of wild dogs. Most of the wounds suffered by the horses are on the lower part of their body and legs; certainly, areas within reach of coyotes or dogs. The long claw marks on the backs and higher up on the animal caused me to rethink this and once I saw the deep claw wounds in the photo above I realized there is no way a canid of any kind was involved in this particular attack.

One of the animals native to Texas that has the power to inflict this kind of damage to an animal the size of a horse is a black bear (Ursus americanus). This would be highly unusual on several fronts. Bears are making a strong comeback in east Texas and have always maintained good numbers in far west and south Texas but it would truly be something if one were present here in central Texas. They have been creeping in from the west, however, and one was killed in Menard County not too long ago. Menard is only 175 miles away. That being said, a bear is highly unlikely. This just isn't their style.

This attack screams “big cat” to me. This sheer depth of the claw marks visible in the picture above is really impressive. This would have had to have been a very big cat. That being the case, a jaguar (Panthera onca) is a possibility. Jags were once native to Texas and have been creeping back northward from Mexico in recent years. They have been documented several times in Arizona via camera traps over the last few years. There are anecdotal reports of jags being spotted in Texas as well. While most of the sightings and incidents have been far south of us I’ve heard of one notable exception. In the interest of full disclosure, this incident was related to me second hand after-the-fact; however, the person who shared it with me is a man of impeccable character and I have absolutely no doubt he told me the truth. He told me a rancher in the Panhandle reported losing large livestock on a regular basis to TPWD several years ago. After losing his second alpaca the game warden came out. They found the hind-quarters of the alpaca 20 feet up in a tree. The game warden told the rancher that this was not a cougar and that he likely had a jaguar on the property. The cat was never seen and eventually must have moved on as the killings stopped. There is speculation that the large "black panthers" often reported through out the state are actually melanistic jaguars. Still, a jaguar is the longest of long shots here.

Having said all that, a cougar (Puma concolor) is, by far, the most likely culprit. These big cats, while not common in the area, have been seen here before. I just wanted to cover all the bases by mentioning other possibilities. One thing I've learned over the years is that you never know what you might come across when you get into something like this. Personally, I do believe a cougar to be the predator in this particular case.

I am no expert; however, so I sought a second opinion from a friend of mine. Tod Pinkerton has a degree in Wildlife Biology from Texas A&M and worked for many years as a coyote and nuisance animal trapper in SE Texas. I sent him the photos and asked for his input. His reply mirrored my own thoughts and read as follows:

“While I'm certainly no expert on cougar attacks, I can think of no other native Texas animal that could have pulled this off. If what I'm seeing in some of the photos are claw marks and not folds of skin, etc. then the work has to be that of cat.

Coyotes, dogs, and wolves don't use claws in any appreciable manner to disable prey that I'm aware of. This should rule them out (again if those images represent claw marks, and not some other factor like thorns, wire, etc.).

There isn't a coyote or bobcat within this state tough enough to even think about taking on a full grown horse. Nor one that could inflict that level of damage on a living full grown animal. Small colts/foals are another matter, but this occurred to multiple full grown ones as well.

IMHO it is likely the work of a cougar. The only other known Texas critter even physically able to try to do this would be a black bear, but I've never heard of one trying to take down a horse.

I'll try to look up some information on this tonight. In the meantime you might advise them to contact their local wildlife/animal damage control specialist (trapper) if they haven't already. They can usually get in touch with one through the local county agriculture extension office. These folks are professionals and have probably investigated this sort of thing before.”

Why did the predator not finish the kills? That is hard to say but it was stated by Mrs. Fisher that it was clear these horses fought hard for their lives. It is very possible that the predator decided this particular meal was not worth the trouble or was kicked and injured itself. If so, it might have had to retreat. Wildlife biologist Tod Pinkerton added:

“It's likely the cat bit off more than it could chew. It may have gotten mixed up in all the confusion as to which animal it was attacking. Perhaps the horses came to each others aide? We'll likely never know the answer here.

I do know they (cougars) are quite capable of killing/wounding multiple animals in a single encounter. I've heard stories of them taking out 15-25 sheep or goats at a time. It might be that they get 'intoxicated' with the killing of prey?”

The drought we are suffering is making life very difficult on wildlife and forcing them closer to populated areas in order to find food and water. This, in my mind, is the scenario that led to the attacks on these horses. Our wildlife is starting to get a bit desperate and that desperation is beginning to manifest itself in some atypical behaviors.

It is quite possible, if we don’t get rain soon, that we will see more of this sort of thing in central Texas.