There Are No Black Cougars. So What About Those Black Panthers?

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Just the mention of Black Panthers will get you an enormous and varied bag full of responses from just about everyone from the guy next door to your great grandmother.

 First things first, there has never been a recorded melanistic (black) color phase cougar either in captivity or the wild. From as far back as one can dig there have been reports and tales of large black long tailed cats roaming Texas and pretty much all of North America. The first thing that comes to mind is the Jaguar from Mexico and South America. The Jaguar once roamed much farther than they do now but specimens have been verified in Arizona, New Mexico and even South Texas in recent years.  While the ones caught on camera in these states were not melanistic just the fact they were here in any color phase proves that the chance albeit a small one is possible that black jaguars could in fact be finding their way into the lower 48.

 Since I was a small child tales of black panthers have circulated in rural East Texas. My grandfather told of being chased out of the logging woods in the early 1900s by a large black cat he called a Panther. My father and mother both had sightings of large black cats on our properties in Panola county.  My mother and father were coming home after dark one night when they pulled into our ¼ mile long driveway when they noticed a small black cat in the road. My father stopped his truck and as they watched 2 more small black Kittens walked into the roadway fallowed by a very large black female cat.  According to my parents the kittens were the size of house cats and the mother was at least 5 to 6 feet from nose to tail. The tail was thick and long with an upward curve at the tip.

 This description has been told tens of thousands of times over the decades by everyone from moms and dads to law enforcement officers to even the clergy.  According to Texas Parks & Wildlife there is no such thing as a “BLACK PANTHER”. What is it that thousands of people have seen? Surely no one believes that all of these people are liars. I know personally if anyone called my parents liars I would probably invite them to a good old fashioned butt whoopn’.  Could it be misidentification? Even if 60% are misidentified known animals that still leaves 40% that are something else. Say of that 40% another 20% are outright fabrications that still leaves 20% that are valid reputable sightings of a large long tailed black cat  that we call the BLACK PANTHER.  

 The possibilities are pretty intriguing as to what they may be. In my opinion they are either black Jaguars or a hybridization of interbreeding of species. Just as Tigers and Lions can cross to create a Tigon or Liger many other wild cat species have been crossed to create designer exotic pets. There are even reports of domestic cats and bobcats crossbreeding. As far as I am aware the bob/domestic cross has not been scientifically verified but there are many other crossbreeds in the cat world.  I have had several sightings myself over the years and even caught a few on camera. I know people say it is a house cat etc.but if a house cat is knee high and weighs in at an estimated 20 plus pounds it might be as interesting a find in the wild as a Panther.

 What do you think they are?  

Jeff Stewart

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