I received a report yesterday from a reader who hit what he describes as a very large black cat two nights ago on Hwy 90 just south of Madisonville, TX. His description of the incident is as follows:
"Last night I was traveling back from Houston to Dallas on the back roads to avoid traffic. Around 9pm I was on HWY 90 south of Madisonville and hit a large black cat with my car. The animal was by my estimation about 80lbs and bigger than my English Springer Spaniel. I was traveling about 70mph with high beams on, it was clear, and I could see fine. But suddenly from the left side of the road it appeared and stopped just in front of the car, and turned to look at me.
There appeared to be embankments on each side of the road and I discounted swerving or going in to the ditch to avoid it, So I hit the brakes hard. As I did the animal turned to face me and I saw clearly two blue eyes reflected back at me by my lights, and a clear feline face and large body. I think by the time I hit it the car had slowed to about 30-35 mph. There was a thud on impact, but I didn’t “run over it”, I think it went under the car. I pulled over about 50 yards farther and paused to take a look at the damage on my car. The front quarter panel was torn up and there was some fluids leaking and I noted some vapor clouds that smelled of radiator coolant. I determined that I needed to get in to town ASAP before the car was no longer drivable.
When in town I assessed the damage and had to tie up parts and put extra fluid in the car and was eventually able to “nurse” it back to Dallas where I live.
When I got home my wife and I did some research and I am convinced I saw and hit a black panther. I grew up in the Huntsville Area and as a teen heard stories of people seeing them in the area.
This morning just before the care was towed away I inspected it again and found a collection of long semi-soft black hairs that had become stuck in the plastic, I have these and put them in a baggie. I am writing this to you to ask for any insight or ideas on how I can determine if in deed this was a black panther or if my eyes deceived me and it was perhaps a wild hog, or possibly a coyote. I am so sure that the face and head was that of a large feline, and I am mad now that I didn’t try to go look in the ditch for it, but I feared my car was failing and didn’t want to tangle with a large wounded animal should I find it.
I replied with the reader and asked if he could provide a more specific location of the incident. His reply is below:
"The location was on Hwy 90, south of Madisonville, and just north of the County Road 106 cut off. As best I can recall, I know I had just crossed some small bridge and it the road side was dropping off sharp, or appeared when I saw the animal which , and looking at the maps on Google, I think the incident happened somewhere between the two little bridges you can see on Google maps."
Here is where I'm in need of some help. I am unable to get out to this area for at least the next week. If there are any readers in this vicinity or any who would be willing to drive out to this area to check for possible roadkill I would be most grateful. The carcass won't last long on the shoulder of the road or on the edge of the wood line. If you are willing to get out there and take a look let me know. Pack a camera, some gloves, and a garbage bag or tarp just in case you find the carcass. Who knows? This could be the break we've all been waiting for when it comes to the black panther enigma.
In the meantime, the reader has agreed to send me the hairs he collected from the front of his vehicle for analysis. These may yet yield some valuable information even if a body cannot be located.