The wild cats of Texas represent the most mysterious and beautiful elements of our native fauna.
Throughout the years, I have learned that nothing grabs the attention of an outdoors lover quicker than a wild cat encounter.
It was the sighting of a cougar in 1987 that I consider to be one of the most pivotal moments in my life. That sighting, along with a few brushes with wolves, steered me into a career in the great outdoors.
Whether you love to photograph them as I do or are a diehard varmint hunter, there is no denying wild cats represent Texas’s very best.
What about “black panthers” in Texas? Do they exist? Here are a few facts to consider.
There has never been a black cougar observed by science, killed by a hunter (and confirmed), born in a zoo, etc. As far as we know, they do not exist in the wild in Texas.
Jaguars throw melanistic (black) offspring and recent research has shown melanism is a dominant trait. A majority of jaguars in some areas of Central America are black.
People have a hard time judging the size of cats. Some “black panther” photos shown on the Web are simply house cats.
Cougars are not considered “big cats.” That title is only given to cats that can roar, such as lions. Cougars are the largest of what scientists call the “lesser cats” although anyone who has seen a 150-pound specimen in person would have a hard time accepting this designation.
The bobcat is the most common and adaptable wild cat species in the Lone Star State. I have seen them in distant brushy thickets of Southwest Texas, and I once saw one walking in a McDonalds parking lot in Metro Houston. They are super adaptable and can survive on everything from field mice to deer.
Bobcats are incredible jumpers. They are often mounted chasing quail, but even in the best bobwhite habitat they rarely prey on them. In one study, only six percent of 125 bobcat stomachs surveyed contained quail feathers or bones.
Jaguars are native to Texas, but are not currently confirmed to live here. Owing to my personal research, which includes extensive interviews and historical records, I believe some exist on the Texas-Mexico border and in the Trans Pecos. I predict jaguar presence will be confirmed through game camera photos within two to three years.
The jaguarundi is another federally protected species found in Texas. Short and slender, they can grow to be rather long. Believed to exist only in the lower reaches of Texas, there have been alleged sightings throughout the state.
The ocelot is found only in remnant populations in South Texas, mainly along the extreme southern coastal areas. Stunningly beautiful, they prefer the kind of thick habitat now converted to agriculture in the Rio Grande Valley area. Ocelots are relatively common in Mexico and Central America but are an endangered species stateside.
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