When I started this blog I figured the most popular topic I would discuss would be bigfoot. That really has not turned out to be the case. Don’t misunderstand me. There is plenty of interest in all things sasquatch but sightings are rare and most people, even if they are open-minded on the subject, don’t know what to think about it all. I think the fact that my theories and ideas on the subject of wood apes don’t appeal much to the lunatic fringe plays into this a bit as well.
All that aside, by far the topic that has generated the most interest and reader feedback is that of black panthers, which aren’t supposed to exist at all, and mountain lions in places they are not thought to inhabit. The reports just roll in on a weekly basis. I figure there are many more sightings that are reported to other agencies and/or sites and many more that are not reported at all. In the area of east Texas where I grew up black panthers were not considered anything particularly special. To the folks living in the swamps and bottomlands, “long-tailed cats” of both the black and tawny varieties were just another animal that lived in the woods. They were not considered any more unusual than coyotes or bobcats though they weren’t seen as often.
Following are some of the latest emails I’ve received from readers reporting encounters with mysterious and large black cats. I’ve not spoken directly to these folks as 99% of these reports have come via comments to posts on the subject, which leaves me with no contact information. That being the case, I can’t speak to the veracity of the reports. Having said that, the reports are pretty typical of what I receive on a regular basis and, other than the fact theses folks are seeing an animal that is not supposed to exist, are not fantastic in their claims. While a hoax claim may get in below, I believe that most of these folks are being honest and have seen just what they say they have.
The italicized passages are the unedited, unless otherwise noted, words sent in to me by readers. My comments will follow each passage.
“My grandfather went on one of his regular trips through the East Ranch with the ranch foreman, a close friend of our family and former DEA agent and Texas Ranger. This was about 7 years ago in Willacy County, part of the old King Ranch. A large black cat crossed a ranch road in front of their truck, and both men returned visibly shaken, saying "There's black cats out there." It was clearly large. I have since learned the Florida panther and jaguar of the Amazon are the same cat and their range once connected both areas. I suspect it was one of these. Neither of these men would be frightened by a bobcat or jaguarundi. The jaguar is the third largest cat in the world, behind the lion and the tiger.”
This report comes from an area where large black cats have been reported more than just a few times. I even have been able to view a couple of game camera photos showing what might be a large black cat (The owner of the photo did not want them published or I would have posted them on the site). I do need to point out that the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) are not the same cat. Having said that, it is possible that what the reader’s grandfather saw was a melanistic jaguar. Jags are crossing into the U.S., mainly in Arizona, more often these days so a sighting in south Texas would not be shocking to me.
“Irvine,Ca. I am a hunter and I see about 5 to ten bobcats a year a mountain lion every five years. I know what I saw was abnormal. There is a huge black and grey striped bob tailed cat that lives in my neighborhood which dwarfs my 95 pound yellow lab. This cat is easily as large or larger than a very large doberman pincher, long legged and lean torso. I saw the cat and my dog at the same time as to make a startling comparison. Now I know what sliced up my dogs face. My friend saw him up the canyon while he was grading a lot for a custom house in 2011. It just stood there looking at him in front of the tractor. I saw him a year ago in 2011 in front of my house in the street and my mother just saw it in the backyard when our dog tried to attack it but ran into the sliding glass door at 7:13 this morning 10-29-2012. She thought it was a mountain lion, she said the head was huge!”
Robert’s report is puzzling in that the color and markings of the cat described are classic bobcat while the extremely large size of the animal would seem to rule that species out. My guess is that a larger than normal bobcat is prowling the neighborhood and that is what was seen. Male bobs average about 40 lbs. but larger specimens have been recorded. The largest ever officially documented weighed 60 lbs. It is possible that bobcats can grow larger than that. The fact that this cat is haunting a somewhat suburban area is interesting. If it is finding easy meals here it could explain the larger than average size.
“In 1988 my sister had a sighting of a big black panther mom with 2 cubs while she was driving on county road 426 to Thorndale,Tx She lived off of county road 426 near Hare and Sandoval,Tx. This is approximately 10-12 miles south east of Lake Granger.”
I’ve heard several reports of mountain lions roaming through this area. This would be the first black panther report I recall from this vicinity. The area is mostly farms and ranches and there is certainly a lot of room for a big cat to roam. In addition , the area has a very healthy deer and rabbit population which could provide the beginnings of a prey base. There are a lot of goats being raised in the area as well and I know that a number of them are lost yearly to predators. Most of the time coyotes are blamed and, no doubt, they are responsible most of the time. It is certainly possible, however, that a big cat might supplement its diet with the occasional goat from time to time.
“I have a place off of RR-165 between Blanco and Henly,Tx in the Hill country. When leaving my north gate one evening back in Sept. I spotted a very tall all-black cat of some kind walking straight and slow across the distance of my headlights shining back into the property while I was locking the gate. Judging the distance from where I saw it walk, It appeared to be about 4-5 feet long and maybe a couple of feet or more in height. No markings and just walking straight and slow between some groups of trees. Never had seen anything like it before. Recently my neighbor had mentioned about something finding about a slain animal and that all of his goats were staying close to house. Animals are good about sensing danger from 'certain predators.”
The Texas Hill Country has become a real hot bed for black cat sightings. It is more populated than it used to be just a few years ago but there are still vast expanses where there aren’t many people. Like much of Texas, the deer population is very healthy. A population of big cats could make it just fine. Add the fact that one of the few areas of Texas with a recognized population of mountain lions is in the Big Bend area just a couple of hundred miles to the west and it is plausible to think some big cats, likely young adults looking to establish their own territory, might have moved east. The black coloration reported adds a whole different dimension to this sighting, however.
“I grew up in Sabine county in east Texas. When I was a kid, my mom, my sister and I stood on our front porch and watched a very large, sleek black cat with a tail as long as it's body drink from the stock tank. It then slowly walked to a tree, stretched up and scratched on it. Over the years, I have seen large cats a number of time in the area, numerous times on the road between Yellowpine and Newton and in the bottoms of Sabine county. Nobody will ever convince me there aren't large cats in east Texas as I've seen them.”
I grew up in E-SE Texas and have always heard stories like this. In fact, Orange and Newton Counties have long been among the top counties in Texas for cougar and black panther reports. Folks in these areas, as well as those living in the Big Thicket area a bit farther to the west, will tell you these cats are, and always have been, there. If you try telling them there are no cougars in east Texas and there is no such thing as black panthers they, if you are lucky, will tell you they don’t care what you think and they know they are there and, if you are not so lucky, be willing to “defend their opinions” strongly.
“I saw a cat outside of a neighbors house when walking my dog. It was a young cougar. We have seen a pair over several years chasing down deer across the back of our property here in Marion county. I backed slowly away while it ran into the heavy trees! Awesome encounter but don't really want to have that close of one again soon. :D”
If you look at mountain lion distribution maps you will see that officials do not recognize the presence of these large predators in Marion County or any other part of east Texas. Again, many locals living in the more rural areas of E-NE Texas will disagree. I have not seen a cougar this far north but have had one stroll by near my campsite in SE Oklahoma just last summer. If these cats are present in the Oachitas there is really no reason to believe they, like black bears, are not crossing over into Texas on, at least, a periodic basis.
“I live and hunt in east Tx and this morning I heard something coming up behind me it stopped right behind my box stand, must have caught my scent and took off running saw it plain as day looked exactly like a black panther it was as close as 10 ft from me it was aprox. 6 to 7 feet long from nose to tip of tail I still can’t believe what I saw.”
I’d like to hear some more about this encounter. What was the nearest town? Did it take place on National Forest land? What were the light conditions at the time? Any additional details would be welcome. Contact me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com.
"Hello! Last night my Grandfather shot at what he described as a "cougar sized black cat" on our deer lease in Livingston Texas. Various hunters on the lease had reported seeing other large cats roaming around, including a regular tan cougar in the very same location that the black one was supposedly shot in. We've had a steep decline in deer and squirrel on this side of our lease this year. Also, we've found where deer carcasses that were thrown in our road by poachers, will suddenly vanish. My mother walked past the full carcass and less than 20 minutes later, she walked back and the carcass was gone. It can be smelled further back in the woods. Nothing at all was left in the woods. This was in the road directly in front of the stand the black cat was seen in. We are putting up game cameras in the area. I just saw you post about these cats and decided to let you know about this sighting! I hope that we will have photographic evidence of it soon. When the area was searched we could not find any blood, so my grandfather must have missed.
Hope it turns back up."
I've had several reports of black panther sightings come in from SE Texas in the last month including another from the Livingston area (see below). Please keep me up to date on any new sightings and if you capture any images on the game cameras. If you need additional cameras let me know. I KNOW for a fact that there are cougars in the SHNF. I saw one myself in May of 2005 near Stubblefield Lake on the west side of Lake Conroe. They are there so the reported sighting of a tawny colored cat does not surprise me in the least. Thanks for the report and do let me know how your camera trapping goes.
“I have an image what may be a Black Panther taken by a game cam about 25 minutes south of Houston. Is there a way to upload an image?”
Wade, yes. Please attach the photo to an email and send it to me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. I am looking forward to seeing it.
“I have to say I just saw today a big black cat NW Austin in back of my fence in private green belt. It was dark almost black about 3 feet tall, long tail.”
I live only an hour or so north of you in Temple. If you would like to discuss your sighting further just contact me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. Have you seen the cat again? Have any others in the area seen the animal? If possible, please provide the exact location of the sighting. I’d like to get out and explore the greenbelt you mentioned myself. Who knows? We might get lucky.
“I saw one of these "legendary" Black Mountain Lions last week on Thanksgiving Day, around 10 am in the morning, in rural Oroville, Butte County, CA. The weather was bright and sunny and the critter was well out into the open. I was just under 66 feet away from him.
He was moving through a small orchard of dwarf citrus trees that was a part of a fenced-off ranch-style property which runs along a roadside. I'd never seen anything like this before and was very excited but not frightened. One of the first things that passed through my mind was, "This must be someone's pet leopard, or something." He didn't have on a collar or leash, or anything. I was right at the fence a good deal of the at least 7 minutes I watched him. I know I surprised him, because when he saw me, he dropped down and crouched into the grass.
He was black, and looked long and lanky, and just like mountain lions I had seen in documentaries. He had quite a long tail which was uniformly thick, carried off the ground, and curved upward. He moved with a characteristically feline grace--but not like a little kitty cat. He was about the size of a small Labrador. When he was crouched in the grass and watching me, I could see that his ears were rounded and not pointy.
He seemed content to stay crouched in the grass, so I decided to move to the southward edge of the orchard fence and see if I could get a sideways view of him. When I did that he took the opportunity to start moving north again, through a fence into the dwelling house part of the property. Since I had no luck in seeing him from the south side, I went back to my original vantage point, and when I got there, he dropped back into the grass again and watched me. He seemed very patient.
A few moments after I started watching this guy, a friend called me on my cell--which had a camera, but I never even thought of using it to get a pic...What a mistake! Oh well, such is life.
This creature was patiently crouched and I decided to try to get another sidelong view of him from the orchard. Having had no luck again, I returned and he was gone....
But now I KNOW that Black Lions do exist. I just can't prove it.”
This sighting is unusual due to how long the witness was able to observe the cat. It would seem the chances of misidentification are pretty slim considering the amount of time it was in view. There are really only two explanations for this sighting. Either the witness is attempting to perpetrate a hoax or he is telling the truth. I have no reason not to believe him. I only wish he had remembered that cell phone!
“Last evening, my wife and I left the home of relatives off C Taylor Rd in Argyle. We turned left onto Crawford Rd heading toward IH 35. About half way to IH 35 a black cat with a bob tail came out of the woods on the north side of the road and crossed to the south side. Right behind this cat was another slightly larger cat, but identical in description. The tail of these cats looked to be about 4-6 inches long. The heads were large and rounded. They looked like bobcats but were black.”
I’m guessing you did, indeed, see a pair of bobcats. I would be curious to know what time of evening it was when you saw the cats. Is it possible low light conditions made the cats appear darker than they really were? Having mentioned that possibility, melanistic bobs have been documented in Florida. Certainly, black bobcats are rare, and I’ve never heard of one being seen in Texas, but if they can occur in Florida I see no reason they could not occur here as well.
“I would like to send you a photo of a large black cat taken 12/02/2012 in Livingston TX. This cat is thought to be a black panther which I am told does not exist here. This type of cat has been spotted in the area over the last couple of years. It was in our neighbors yard about 2 weeks ago and then my sister managed to grab a camera and get a shot of it in her drive way going to a pipeline. She is concerned about her horses and her dog. Should she be? I cant locate your email address.”
I would really like to see this photo. Please attach a digital copy of it to an email and send to Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. If this isn’t possible, let me know and I’ll send you a mailing address where a hard copy of the photo can be sent. I’ll even spring for postage, haha. I’ll greatly look forward to hearing from you.
“Me and two buddies along with one of my buddies son saw a black cat December 2nd in George West Texas. It was about 30 yards downwind of an ice chest with a deer quartered in it. We saw the cat laying down at first, then went a got a bigger light to see it better. We watched the cat for about 60 yards. It was black, about 25 to 35 #. Had a long tail. I have seen many bobcats and other wild animals but have never seen anything like this.”
Ah, George West, Texas. Birthplace of legendary folklorist J. Frank Dobie and the storytelling capital of Texas. Mountain lion sightings are not unheard of in this part of south Texas but, as with other sightings, it is the apparent melanism of the big cat witnessed that makes this incident even more unique. Of late, south Texas and the Hill Country seem to be the hot spots for black panther sightings. Many feel that jaguars are crossing the Rio Grande, as has been taking place in Arizona, and are responsible for these black cat sightings. While this is possible, I suppose, I don’t tend to buy it as an explanation for black panther sightings. If these big cats were jaguars I would think more of the normally colored and spotted animals would be reported. This is simply not the case. Jaguars do exhibit melanism but black cats are much more rare than normally colored jags. I simply do not know what type of big cat folks are seeing.
Please keep the sighting reports coming. Make sure and include as many details as possible in regards to location, time of day, light conditions, size of the cat, etc. The more detail the better. If there is anyone out there who is interested in having cameras placed on their property in an effort to document black panthers or out of place mountain lions please feel free to contact me. Getting a black panther photo is high on my bucket list.
Keep in mind the best way to effectively communicate with me is via email. I appreciate comments but am not able to reply privately unless you include your email or phone number in the body of the comment. Email is also the best way to send in any photos.
I’ll look forward to hearing from more of you who have seen these elusive big cats.