It has been a little while since I did a post on the legendary black panthers of Texas. That does not mean that there has been nothing happening on that front. Not by a long shot. Reports continue to roll in to me on a weekly basis from people who claim to have seen these animals, which are not supposed to exist. I have two active study areas right now where I am attempting to get photos of anomalous cats. Finally, the preliminary testing on the hairs sent in by a reader who claims to have hit a black panther with his vehicle is complete and the results are promising. More on all of that later…
In the meantime, below are the latest batch of black panther and out of place big cat sightings to have come to my attention. The people who sent these reports did so on their own with no prodding from me. While it is possible some are hoaxing me by sending in bogus reports, and I have not spoken directly with most of these folks, I believe the people who represent the reports below are sincere. They have seen something that they cannot explain.
The italicized passages are the unedited, unless otherwise noted, words sent in by readers. My comments will follow each passage.
“I have seen a black cat smaller than a cougar or Florida posted in black water forest in North West Florida. I heard it before I saw it and it sounded like a woman screaming.”
TCH Comment: A brief and to the point report. I get a lot of these types of messages. This report comes from Florida. It is not unusual for readers in other states, especially those in the south, to send reports to me. There just aren’t many other places to do so as most wildlife officials dismiss the possibility of large black cats. The report of “screaming” is interesting. Cougars certainly do make a sound similar to that of a woman screaming from time to time. One does have to be careful though, since nobody saw the cat making the screaming sound, as other animals, foxes would be one example, make screaming sounds that can freeze your blood if you are not familiar with them.
“Two years ago, I heard a cougar at night. Once you hear that "scream" you will never forget that sound. It was during deer hunting season here at my ranch 7 miles Southwest of Johnson City. TX. We were able to verify it was a cougar by our game camera that was fastened to a tree near the deer feeder. Then again last fall (2012), I heard a throaty sound as if having labored breathing. It's difficult to explain, but I recognized the sound when I heard it this evening at approximately 7:10 pm. Its a beautiful evening. but my border collie and I both got startled and came into the house. We all need to be careful out here in the Hill Country.”
TCH Comment: Another report that mentions screaming. I know that back home in SE Texas any strange sound was often attributed to “panthers.” They were pretty much blamed for any, and all, weird noises that came out of the swamps, marshes, and woods. This witness is right in that once you hear a cougar screaming you won’t soon forget it. I would love to see the photo this reader’s game camera captured of the mountain lion. The “throaty, labored breathing” sounds the witness reports are very interesting. I’d like to hear more detail on these sounds.
“First part of Dec, 2012. A big black cat in private green belt back of my fence in Great Hills NW Austin. Have put up game camera, and so far nothing yet. But coyotes 1 to 3 times day and night every day since Christmas. Also notice very few deer around the area as in past.”
TCH Comment: Another short and to the point report. I wouldn’t be surprised if a mountain lion occasionally wandered into the area NW of Austin. A big black cat is something different, however, as they are not supposed to actually exist. I hope this reader keeps me informed and lets me know if any photos of the cat in question are captured.
“My grandparents used to live outside of Salado, TX on a large ranch and had property that backed up to Stillhouse Hollow Lake. On several occasions while hunting with my father when I was younger we would see a very large solid black cat with a long tail across one of the coves near the bank. We also saw the prints on our side of the lake and numerous times my family members would hear the screams from some sort of cat. Not sure what it was, but my Dad always said it was a panther!!”
TCH Comment: I am very familiar with this area as I live in Bell County. To the reader: Does your family still own the property? Have there been any sightings in the last couple of years? If so, please contact me via email at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. I do get reports of “long-tailed cats,” both tawny-colored and black, from this part of the state on a fairly regular basis. A big cat wandering into the Stillhouse Hollow area would not surprise me at all.
“My uncle and I encountered two one morning after church in Knox county 1 mile south of the brazos river five miles north of Goree, Tx. They ran across a county road and were leaping through a cotton field and into an old abandoned house. Neither one of us would go in even with a gun. They were very large black cats I'd say bigger than mountain lions because I've seen them.”
TCH Comments: Goree, TX is located in Knox County about 85 miles north of Abilene. According to the 2000 census there were only 5 people per square mile in the county. The area features a lot of pretty lonesome country. The report of the cats running together is interesting as is their use of an abandoned house as a hiding place/shelter. I think it is entirely plausible big cats use man-made structures from time to time. As a matter of fact, I believe it helps explain the sightings of big cats and coyotes in more urban settings. I hypothesize that larger predators are finding their way into large cities via greenbelts and railroad tracks and then making themselves at home, at least for a while, in abandoned homes, warehouses, etc. Many larger cities have a lot of areas that fit this description.
“I live in midwest Missouri and I my self have seen a very large solid black panther with gold colored eyes run across 13 Hwy shortly after dusk about a year ago I remember yelling at my friend to stop the van she was gonna hit it, we swerved just in time and luckily the roads were clear it stopped looked at us then took off & finished crossing the road.”
TCH Comment: Another out of state report. The account is very typical in that it involved a cat crossing a road. The “gold-colored” eye shine intrigues me. Many witnesses have reported yellowish eye shine reflecting from the eyes of black panthers.
“We saw the same black adolescent "jaguar" twice in our back yard, 1.5 miles south of Liberty Oklahoma in the last 5 weeks. It was walking slowly in the tall grass, was ~ 75 pounds, and had a 3+ foot long tail. My dogs were barking at it from their fenced in enclosure and it was completely unconcerned. I started asking friends and neighbors about ‘black panthers’ and to a man and a woman, they have no doubt of their existence. One neighbor reported to me that something [she assumed it was a mountain lion] attacked her 250-pound mastiff some years ago, almost killing him. He had to have a drain in his neck for more than 4 months.”
TCH Comment: This report originates from Oklahoma. Texas’ neighbor to the north has a long history of black panther sightings. The only thing about this report that bothered me had nothing to do with the sighting itself or the description of the cat; rather, it was the reference to the 250 lb. mastiff. That seemed outlandishly large even for this giant breed. I was wrong, however. English mastiffs are reported to routinely weigh between 150-250 lbs. That being the case, my concerns were alleviated and I decided to include the report in this post.
“All I know is that where I grew up in the 1960s in south east Texas; that non existent black cat (call it what you want I call it a black panther) probably averaged 80 pounds did exist. So much so that I hunted them for a bounty paid at the county clerks office. Just bring in the pair of ears and I got paid $7.50 which in those days was a lot of gasoline at 16.9 cents per gallon. They may not exist any longer, possibly to over hunting of them but they did then. If the TPWD deny it then they LIE LIE LIE.”
TCH Comment: This comment is fascinating to me for several reasons. First, the attitude of this gentleman perfectly represents that of almost all people living in the bottomlands and back woods areas of SE Texas where I grew up. They don’t believe black panthers exist, they know they exist. In fact, most don’t consider them anything all that unusual. These black cats are just another animal that lives in the woods. Folks don’t get fired up until you tell them that science does not recognize the existence of black panthers. The second thing I find so interesting about this comment is that the reader says he hunted these cats for a bounty. This sort of thing was not all that uncommon when it came to “nuisance” animals. As recently ast 5-10 years ago many Texas counties were offering similar bounties on coyotes. All you had to do was present the ears and you got a check. I assume the programs are still in existence but it will, no doubt, vary county to county. The question this all raises is if these animals were hunted for a bounty then why have they remained undocumented? Why is there no record of them? Why do no county or state officials “remember” these programs. This may be an area that someone could research. If county or state records do exist showing that bounties were paid for black panthers, that would go a long way toward legitimizing their existence.
“I live in a Stamford, Texas. This is a small town north of Abilene. I know this site is dedicated to large black cat sightings but I have been puzzled lately by a smaller size of cat and would like to question you all. I have seen this cat or cats 4 times. 2 times at approximately 5am before daylight savings time and 2 other times just after dusk but before full night. This cat is small but larger than an average house cat. It has a very long almost pole/rod shaped tail that was almost as long as the body. It did not appear to have shorter legs like I see in pictures of Jaguarundi I have found on the internet. These have crossed the road from a mesquite/brush area over to a clearing. It was the tail that actually made me pause, being long but very full, yet like a baseball bat without the taper in size from end to end and the abrupt rounded end like a bat. My friends are starting to think I'm crazy because I keep asking if they see these at night. Thankfully my daughter was with me one evening and saw it also lol. So now I don't feel so alone. It was dark enough at all these times that I cannot tell you a color except that they did not appear black but more brown and the reflection of their eyes were noticable. I know we have bobcats around here but never have I seen a bobcat with a tail almost as long as the body.”
TCH Comment: Another report from the area north of Abilene. I don’t think the jaguarundi should necessarily be ruled completely out though they aren’t supposed to live anywhere even remotely close to this part of Texas. It could be an unusually large feral cat, I suppose. Also, it could simply be that this witness spotted a young animal. Whatever black panthers are, they aren’t born weighing 75-150 lbs. Like any other real species, they will have young. Maybe this witness saw a juvenile animal.
“My son and I saw one in Burnet County two years ago. The jaguarundi is a diurnal animal. Unusual for this one to be out at night.”
TCH Comment: I am assuming that this reader believes he saw a jaguarundi and not a classic “black panther” since he refers specifically to that species. If he and his son did see a jaguarundi in Burnet County it would be big news. Most jaguarundi distribution maps don’t even show them living in Texas. The TPWD does include them as a species living in the Lone Star State but claims they only exist in very small numbers in the “dense thorny shrublands of the Rio Grande Valley." I know they live up and down the coast up into the SE Texas and into the Piney Woods region. That is still a long way from Burnett County, however.
As you can see, reports of the black panthers of Texas are not going away. People continue to see big cats matching the description of the classic “black panther” of myth. Are they all lying? Mistaken? I find the thought of that much more unlikely than that of these big cats actually existing.
Please keep the reports coming in to me. If you would like a reply please email your account to me. If you post your report as a “comment” to an existing post I do not have any way to get in contact with you. My email address, again, is Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com.
I hope to hear from you soon…