No subject I discuss on this blog generates responses from readers like the topic of large black cats. The term black panther is almost universally used to describe these large cats. As has been discussed here before, the term panther is sort of a catch-all word used to describe any number of large cats but most often is used as another name for a mountain lion or cougar. Melanism has never been observed in mountain lions so science does not recognize the existence of black panthers (the “black panthers” seen in movies, zoos, and photos are either melanistic jaguars or leopards). That means little to those who say they’ve seen them, however. Simply put, they don’t care if these cats are escaped leopards, jaguars, or an unrecognized species. All they know is what they have seen.
Following are just some of the emails and/or comments I’ve received over the last few months. Honestly, they have come in so quickly that I’ve had a hard time keeping up with them. I have not spoken to these folks directly and can’t speak to the veracity of these accounts. Having said that, these reports are very typical of what I hear on an almost weekly basis. While it is possible a reader or two might be pulling my leg, I truly believe that the vast majority of these people are telling the truth. They’ve seen something. The only question is what?
The italicized passages are the unedited, unless otherwise noted, words sent in by readers. My comments will follow each passage.
“I have a new RV campground on the Llano River near Kingsland and last night we saw a black cat, a large one, meandering through our campground. Bring you cameras here and catch a photo.”
TCH Comment: I may just take you up on that if you feel the cat is still in the area. Contact me via email at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com with your name and address.
“My wife and son both saw a medium sized black cat just behind our back fence. We live in a rural neighborhood near Aledo, TX. I saw only the tail in the shadows and could not see detail. They had a much better look at it and described it as about the size of our black lab. At first they thought it was a bobcat but the tail was long and this animal was solid black. It was clearly stalking something on the hill behind the house. We have many deer back there and of course the fawns have just been born. Several birds were raising a ruckus for a few minutes afterwards. Time of day was about 4pm.”
TCH Comment: This account is interesting in that a long tail was specifically noted. This absolutely would rule out a bobcat as the culprit. The witness notes the cat was in shadow so it is possible it wasn’t as dark as it appeared but, even so, a cat the size of a lab in this part of the state is big news.
“I saw something while riding in a car a couple of years ago in south Fort Worth. This is a heavily residential area with a large creek running within plain view of the major road we were on. I have lived in this area for 8 years now, and frequently glance that way as it has declined and become overgrown; hard not to notice. This was late fall, everything was yellow. When I glanced to my left, I saw a black as midnight, low crouching, very large sized animal. At first I thought large black labrador, but it was much too wide and too still...so still! The head a face were short. It was pressed into the ground making it flatten out so I couldn’t tell . I gasped so loudly the driver was stunned. I exclaimed, “Turn around!!" I've never been one to be irrational so the driver was shocked. As we passed back by the same location 60 seconds later there was nothing. I asked if we could pass one more time - nothing. I wanted to call authorities but my friend assured me nothing like that would be around here. I felt like I was crazy but I still look when I go by. Something was there, way too big to be a dog, even a great dane is somewhat skinny. This animal was solid and wide. Like black velvet, not dog fur. Its the only time I have ever seen anything like that.”
TCH Comment: This report is interesting due to the location. I’ve received numerous reports of large black cats from the D-FW Metroplex. It doesn’t seem to be the kind of place a large cat of any kind could stay hidden for very long. Another detail that caught my eye was the way the animal remained in a crouched, low to the ground, position. This is very cat-like behavior and not something I would expect from any sort of canid. The only question I would anticipate skeptics asking, since the witness never mentions any movement whatsoever, is whether it is possible he/she saw an inanimate object of some sort in low light conditions. The witness never says what time of day it was when the animal was sighted but the mention of everything "being yellow" implies, to me at least, that it was during daylight hours. The witness also states that whatever was seen was no longer there after turning around and going back for a second look. This would seem to indicate that the witness saw a living creature and not a dark stump or other inanimate object.
“May 7th, 2012 @ 4:30 am in Haltom City, TX near Big Fossil Creek area off Hwy. 121 there was a large, long-tailed cat, tan in color and taller than a bumper on a mid sized car that strolled across the driveway and was caught on our outside camera. I didn’t say anything when people said we were crazy. In the past, one of our dogs was cut very bad on its hind foot and had puncture wounds on its side and back. I was with some people and they mentioned that their neighbor had told them their was a big cat in their yard one morning about 6:00 am that seemed to be exactly what we had seen and she told Texas Parks & Wildlife and local animal control but both agencies blew it off and said they needed a photo to pursue. Who is expecting to take photos of this type to accumulate evidence for them?? Don’t know if you can help or give your thoughts of sightings like this. Could this have some valid reason for me to have some concern? We only live 4 or 5 miles out of downtown.”
TCH Comment: The reader mentions the big cat was caught on camera. Is the photo/footage still available? If so, it would likely be enough to get the attention of TPWD officials. In addition, I’d love to see it and possibly post it here on this site. If the sightings persist in the area let me know and we can work together to try to get the photo officials need to muster their resources. Do you have reason to be concerned? Possibly, but it is likely, assuming the big cat is not still being seen in the area, the animal was just passing through. You might keep a closer eye than usual on pets and small children for a little while but it is unlikely you have too much to worry about. Just keep your eyes and ears open and apply common sense and you should be fine.
“My wife and I were leaving a friends property in Tarpley, Texas (about 9:30 PM) on July 28, we were slowly traveling down the gravel road and there was an animal (frozen by the vehicles headlights) that at first appeared to look like a fox, but had the face of a cat. It had very long upright ears, a tail like a cat not a fox, was about 2 1/2 ft tall and about 3 1/2 ft long (without the tail) we were about 10 ft away from it and it was not spooked by my vehicle. It was a very light color of grey with darker grey on its face, the ears like I mentioned were very large. The fur colors were solid (no spots or stripes) and was way too large to be a house cat.”
TCH Comment: Hmmm, this one is interesting. The witness initially thought the animal was a fox; however, the size described, if accurate, would rule this out. The animal would be too large to be a fox. Bobcats don’t always have distinct markings and do have prominent ears but the tail described seems to eliminate this species as a suspect. The grey coloration would likely eliminate a cougar as a possibility as they are tawny-colored 99% of the time. The animal sounds a lot like a jaguarundi except for the description of the large ears that were observed. Jaguarundis have small ears that are not prominent at all. Honestly, the coloration, size, and description of the ears matches the appearance of a coyote better than that of any wild cat; however, the witness mentions the tail was “like a cat, not a fox.” I assume this means it was long and thin and not bushy in appearance. If so, honestly, I don’t know what animal this witness observed.
“My husband and I just moved back to Texas June 11, 2012, and friends whom we were staying with told us about reports of a black panther in the area. Yesterday, July 18, on his way home from work about 4:00 in the afternoon, my husband saw what he described as a big, black cat crossing the road. The area was two miles past Kovar Road on the 535 outside of Smithville, Texas.”
TCH Comment: Please let me know if sightings persist in the area. You are not located too far from me and it would be possible for me to get down there and do a bit of looking around. If I had access to the areas where sightings were taking place I might be able to place some cameras in the hopes of getting a photo.
“I thought I was crazy but glad there are more like me. I was walking my small dog in a small wooded area near Kline High School in Kline, TX. Down a small dirt road I saw a large black cat. It stopped and faced me and just looked at us. It looked pretty large and, having raised domestic cats of all breeds, I know this was not a domestic. It was very intimidating. I walked behind a large fence and looked back and he was still in the same position. I tried to hurry back to get my phone and he was gone.”
TCH Comment: I assume the reader is referring to Kleine, TX. If so, this is just south and west of the Sam Houston National Forest. Several big cats have been reported in the Spring/Conroe area. I know there are mountain lions in the SHNF as I saw one myself back in May of 2005. The cat I saw was a typical tawny-colored mountain lion and not black but does reinforce the notion that big cats live in or pass through the area on at least an occasional basis.
“We have a hunting ranch just outside of Tarpley, TX and this past weekend we were doing some prep work for the upcoming deer season. About 3:00 AM Sunday I had to get up to relieve myself and looked out the window and saw a large black cat (about the size of a large bobcat). He was near an outside light about 100 yards away and soon as I touched the doorknob to get a better look he was gone like a bolt of lightning! While I would hate to kill a cat like this I would sure like to ID this cat. I'll try baiting the area and setup a game camera next trip to the ranch.”
TCH Comment: Greg, please let me know if you manage to get a photo. I’d love to take a look at it. The Hill Country State Natural Area is located near Tarpley. The TPWD describes this area as follows: “An undeveloped and secluded retreat that features grassy valleys, spring-fed streams, and steep limestone hills.” The Natural Area consists of 5,369 acres and sounds like very good habitat for a large cat. I’ve never visited this spot but do know there are a lot of deer and hogs running around down there. Mountain lion sightings are not unheard of in this area of the state.
“We live just north of Lindale Texas and noticed that our neighbors chickens, geese and ducks have all vanished. Another neighbor said her three small dogs ended up missing just the other day. She found one of her dog’s collars in her yard with blood drips by it. She also saw large cat/dog like paws by the back fence where her dog’s blood was. Do black cats normally hunt at night? What would you do if you saw one in the woods? Will they attack small kids because I have three? One neighbor also said she saw a black cat with 4 cubs in this same area about 5 years ago.”
TCH Comment: It sounds like you live in close proximity to several areas that feature suitable habitat for a large predator. The Mineola Nature Preserve, Old Sabine Bottom Wildlife Management Area, Little Sandy National Wildlife Refuge, and Tyler State Park are all close by and feature abundant areas where a predator, like a big cat, could hunt and live. Having said that, I don’t feel comfortable attributing the loss of your neighbor’s animals to a big cat based solely on what has been shared above. Coyotes are much more common and could easily be responsible for the lost birds and small dogs. The sighting your neighbor had of a black cat with young is certainly enough to make one wonder but, unless there have been other sightings of big cats in the more recent past, the culprit here is probably something more common. The big paw prints you mentioned could provide some insight. Were photos taken? If so, would you mind sending them to me for inspection? I might be able to tell you if the maker of the prints was a big cat or a canid of some kind.
“Wow! This is a confirmation to my own witness and hearings about cougar and other small wild cats in Brownsville, Texas' near the Rio Grande River and previous testimonies at local bike trail.”
TCH Comment: Yes, the deep south and west regions of Texas are the only places where it is generally accepted by state officials that cougars still live and breed. I would be interested in hearing about your visual and about the sightings of these “small wild cats.”
“Up until the mid 80s there was a family of large black cats living near Thicket, TX (southeast Texas). I was a young child when these sightings were taking place so I do not have a clear memory of seeing one. However, both my parents and grandparents as well as aunt and uncle saw the cats on numerous occasions. My father hit one with his car one evening on his way home. He did not stop because he did not have a gun in the car with him. So he went home to get a gun and then returned to where he had hit the cat. When he got there the cat was gone. The location was only about a 1/2 mile from our house. The cats would even come up close to the house. I can clearly remember the sound it makes. It sounds like a woman screaming.”
TCH Comment: Wayne, I grew up in southeast Texas not too far from this location. The tales that came out of that area fascinated me. Stories of the “Wild Man” or “Ol’ Mossyback” (bigfoot-like creatures), the ghost lights of Bragg Road in Saratoga, and the screaming black panthers that haunted the bottoms of Village Creek and the bayous, swamps, and marshes of the Big Thicket National Preserve are burned into my mind. The folks that live in the bottoms and other remote and heavily wooded areas don’t think much about the existence of black “long-tailed” cats. They don’t know that they are not supposed to exist. These people just accept them as a natural part of the local fauna.
I will be publishing more reports sent to me by readers who have had encounters with the mysterious black panthers of Texas soon. In the meantime, if anyone would like to report a sighting or, for that matter, discuss anything at all please make sure and send me an email. I appreciate comments left on posts but cannot reply to the person leaving the comment directly. An email will allow me to reply and have a private conversation. This is also the best way to forward me any photos.
I will look forward to hearing from more of you who have seen these elusive cats.