“Black panther” reports are common in the American South.
Accounts of mysterious black cats crossing the road in front of motorists or seen by hunters are frequent but are rarely backed up by photography.
In my 25 years of wildlife journalism I have learned most people assume the animals they are seeing are black (melanistic) cougars. The problem is cougars do not produce melanistic offspring and there has never in history been one documented by science.
So, what are people seeing?
That question is broad and we will dive into that in another post, however one possible solution is the jaguarundi.
The late Don Zaidle who wrote extensively on man-eating animals was doing some research on wild cats and suggested 16 years ago I look at the jaguarundi as a possible “black panther” suspect. Shortly after I actually saw one of these cats and it sort of clicked that people could be seeing these animals and call them a “black panther”.
After all, virtually no one outside of hardcore wildlife fans even knows that jaguarundi exists so “black panther” is a quick and easy label to give them.
The photos below came from B. Harper who got them on a game camera near the Texas-Mexico line.