Panther Attacks in Arkansas!

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on December 21st, 2006

Panther kills calves near Searcy

Monday, December 18, 2006 6:47 PM CST

Game and Fish Commission thinks the cat is a former pet

By Warren Watkins
The Daily Citizen (Searcy, AR)

Two calves have been killed and area residents have been frightened in the past two weeks by what many say is a panther along Foster Chapel Road, four miles northwest of Searcy.

The sightings and incidents have taken place in an area three miles south of Panther Creek.

Gary Lovitte said his daughter, Angela, came face to face with the animal, also called a mountain lion or cougar.

“She was outside talking on the phone just after dark and saw a brown cougar sitting in her yard,” Lovitte said. “It seen her and started after her, and she liked to have killed herself getting in the house.”

A few days after that, James Johnson, who lives and raises cattle on Bostic Road in the area, had a close encounter with the animal. One day as Johnson rode his tractor through a pasture to check on his cows, the panther attacked the vehicle, leaving superficial scratch marks.

Johnson thinks the animal was not trying to kill him but attempting to make him leave. His dogs had already left the area before the animal, which had a long tail and was not solid brown, appeared.

“It was a good thing his tractor didn’t die,” Lovitte said.

Johnson found one of his calves killed under some trees just before the incident. When Lovitte went out to see the calf’s body, it had been moved in broad daylight.

Lovitte said another resident had an experience similar to that of his daughter.

“It was just before dusky dark and she had her dog on a leash,” Lovitte said. “It came down the road and meowed a couple of times, and the dog pulled her back inside. It screamed, and they sound just like a woman screaming.”

Another calf, owned by Steve King, was also killed, Lovitte said, and two gas exploration workers recently spooked two panthers from a thicket as they went about their work.

Panthers in Arkansas

“We don’t have any proof there are any mountain lions in Arkansas,” said Keith Stephens, assistant chief of communications for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “There are probably some feral ones, which would have been a domestic animal at one time, someone’s pet. It might’ve gotten too wild. When they get them as kittens they are lovable and playful, but when they get to be 100 pounds, they overwhelm a person, and they just release them into the wild.”

The commission has never had a relocation program for panthers, Stephens said, and have never released any of them anywhere.

Relocation programs are done for bear and elk, but not panthers.

“As best as we can tell, there are a few running around out there,” Blake Sasse, non-game mammal program coordinator for the commission, said. “There is no evidence we have a population of them. Even states with actual populations of mountain lions like Florida or the upper midwest, they get several killed every year being hit by cars.”

Florida has about 100 mountain lions in the entire state, Sasse said.

“Here in Arkansas, we haven’t seen anything like that,” Sasse said. “People would be shooting them, and dead ones would be turning up if there was any real reproducing group out there.”

Sasse agrees with Stephens, that what is being seen in Arkansas are mostly released pets.

“That could happen anywhere in Arkansas,” Sasse said. “There was one owned by a drug dealer in Arkansas a few years ago, and he basically let it run free.”

Most of the time when people see panthers, they are usually misidentifying something else, Sasse said.

A panther’s normal diet is deer, and depending on where they’re at in Arkansas they may eat some kind of mid-size animals like wild hogs.

“If it’s livestock that’s been killed, it’s usually killed by coyotes,” Sasse said. “The tracks turn out to be everything but a mountain lion.”

A panther’s range varies, but in Arkansas could be between 50 and 100 square miles, Sasse said.

Reacting to a panther sighting

If a person sees a panther, there is a safe way to react.

“They need to yell and make as much noise as they can to scare it off,” Sasse said.

Lovitte had different plans.

“We’ve always had panthers come through here this time of year, but they don’t bother anybody,” Lovitte said. “They say not to shoot it, but if it’s in my yard or on my children, I’m going to shoot it.”

Residents are now forewarned, Lovitte said.

“Ain’t nobody got any business being out after dark,” he advised.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

17 Responses to “Panther Attacks in Arkansas!”

  1. MBFH responds:

    Interesting how the Game and Fish Commission chap rules out it being wild in a place called Panther Creek…?!

  2. bill green responds:

    hey craig wow very interesting new article about the arkansas panther. good morning bill p.s. sidenote i wonder if the arkansas fish & game trys to keep track of possible sasquatch sightings or footprints on a off record basis if people report seeing a strange creature in arkansas forests im just wondering.

  3. DWA responds:

    The way humans are getting attacked or at least feinted at makes me lean toward a feral animal, one that lost or never had true fear of people.

    I’d think you’d be seeing this kind of behavior in other places in the East if it were a hallmark of a truly wild cougar.

    But we do seem to be on very unfamiliar ground here, so who knows?

    I do wonder where the presumption comes from (despite Lovitte’s tough talk) that people would of necessity be shooting them. Wouldn’t that be illegal? I wouldn’t think the puma is currently on the list of AR game animals. And despite the headlines (actually, it’s why they make headlines), scofflaws using guns are pretty uncommon.

  4. fuzzy responds:

    “Ain’t nobody got any business being out after dark,” he advised.


  5. kittenz responds:

    Within the past couple of weeks there have been two confirmed wild pumas in Missouri, one of them not too far from the Arkansas border. Just because there are no CONFIRMED sightings in Arkansas (not yet, anyway), that doesn’t mean there are no pumas there.

  6. busterggi responds:

    Amazing that officials would say there are no wild cougars but there there is a population of feral ones.

    Are they aware that feral cougars would breed? That their kittens would be wild?

    Apparently not.

  7. joe levit responds:

    I see this is either just the standard ignorance on a subject, or a calculated attempt to throw people’s interest off. I too (like MBFH) immediately found the name “Panther Creek” ironic. I think this type of goof goes more often than realized. Authority figures ought to realize that places often get their names for a reason. Thus (and these are made up but you’ll get the point) names like Monkey Lake, Gorilla Glen or Serpent Stream can hint strongly about the possibilities there.

    I also agree with DWA about the shooting of panthers, and other animals. Most hunters will only shoot what they go into the field intending to shoot. That is the case because of game laws and seasons as much as the fact that they respect and enjoy searching particular game.

    Lastly, of course there is a breeding population in Arkansas. With large ranges as territory, these cats could be seen very, very rarely simply by virtue of space and limited numbers. That doesn’t take into account their natural propensity to avoid detection, at which they are quite adept.

  8. flame821 responds:

    I must agree with DWA, it is not in the nature of wild Pumas to simply target and attack humans. The animals referenced in these stories would seem to be feral or diseased.

  9. MattBille responds:

    Don’t forget we do get wild cougars killing humans, especially in California, sometimes here in Colorado. The behavior is indicative but not definitive.

  10. MichiganJay responds:

    I am convinced that every wild game officer is incompetent. Aren’t they supposed to be trained in wildlife matters? All you need to do is watch the Animal Planet channel when they do programs about North American wildlife. I learned that a cougar will eat anything from a mouse to a moose. They live alone or with an offspring. Also, they have large territories and sometimes need to travel long distances to mate. It is plausible to me that cougars are migrating to new areas just as coyotes and bear have. These “state experts” seem to quote the opposite of these facts as reasons why cougars shouldn’t or even don’t exist. I used to think the conspiracy theory about cougars was laughable…now I just wonder why the seeming cover up?

  11. Mnynames responds:

    Because you don’t have to protect what doesn’t officially exist? I swear, in all these panther stories I’ve seen, the wildlife officers come off as being just plain bored, as if they can’t be bothered to even go out into the field. One would think that a wildlife officer would actually have some interest in wildlife, but these guys come off as total couch potato bureacrats. Who hires these dolts?

  12. Rillo777 responds:

    How true mnynames. Makes me wonder if these people just couldn’t get another job. Perhaps we should give up the bigfoot search and try to get pictures of these “experts” in the wild. I’m betting it would be an even rarer event.

  13. nine responds:

    As a child, I sat enthralled listening to oldtimers tell panther stories from their youth. Panthers screaming like women, panthers following them home, panthers attacking horses and livestock. This was Scott and Montgomery counties (a very rural area to this day). These Arkansas panthers seemed to get more elusive with encroaching civilization. All those old folks weren’t lying, were they?

  14. chooch responds:

    Most rural dwellers in Arkansas and Oklahoma are well aware of seasonal panther migration – typically spring and fall. It’s been going on at least since I was a woods-running teenage kid in the 1960’s – and probably for thousands of years prior.

    Oklahoma wildlife officers admit to the existence of a panther population here in the Cherokee Nation of northeast Oklahoma.

    In May 2006 my wife and I heard a panther scream in the gully behind our house – and the Arkansas state border is less than a mile away. I doubt the big cats are put off by state borders or by the higher tax base in Arkansas.

    To quote the Arkansas wildlife expert:

    “If it’s livestock that’s been killed, it’s usually killed by coyotes,” Sasse said.

    There is nothing cryptic about coyotes.

    But that quote says volumes about Sasse’s inherent lack of wildlife knowledge.

    Coyotes, unlike wolves and feral dogs, do not hunt in large packs – usually alone or in pairs at most – and are therefore logistically incapable of taking down “livestock” as prey.

    I’ve been a coyote watcher some 40 years here in Oklahoma – with countless observations of coyotes moving placidly through cattle herds (day and night) to dine on milk droppings left by nursing calves.

    Never once have I seen coyotes attack a calf or a cow, nor witnessed a cattle herd being spooked by coyotes. They seem to co-exist quite well.

  15. KarcassticMangoose responds:

    I live in North Texas and have seen a cougar on our property a couple of times (we live on a ranch). It was NOT a bobcat, we see tons of those. When we called the game warden he promptly told us there WERE no panthers in North Texas and hung up. I have a feeling it’s too much work for them to alert the public about an animal who, in almost every instance, will not harm humans. And even if a panther were to attack someone around here, the obvious question would be, “WHY WERE YOU HARASSING A PANTHER?!” I can understand not wanting to create a panic, but when you live in an area that has 600 bare acres surrounding you, it’s insulting that people will tell you it’s just a myth that cougars are in your neck of the woods, especially when you’ve driven up in your driveway and there’s one sitting there.

    And in response to what chooch has said, my neighbor suspected our dog of killing four or five of his goats in one night. Apparently, these goats were ripped apart, their skin peeled off. It always seemed more likely to me that a pack of dogs would have done that, but ours was the only one in the area at the time, and coyotes DO NOT venture up into peoples’ yards to attack ANY livestock. It’s just too close. I’ve always wondered if it could have been the work of the local panther (that doesn’t exist, mind you).

    A few days after he claimed our dog killed his goats, he came down on our property and shot our dog. I suppose it’s all moot point now, but more now than ever I want publicity on the panther that lives here so I can redeem my innocent dog.

  16. Blondebomber responds:

    Thoughts and recollections from the West Coast…

    In response to those who say that coyotes will not attack livestock or run in packs. Well, I am unaware of the behavior of coyotes in Oklahoma and Texas, but while growing up on a ranch in rural Northern CA, I observed that coyotes will run in temporary packs whenever it suits them. I have seen them take calves, large bucks, does, PLENTY of sheep, goats, and I once found a dead, and picked clean to the bones elk with a helluva lot of coyote tracks around it. Some might say that the elk died of natural causes or disease, but I tracked it for more than two miles, and from what I could observe from the pattern of the tracks (fresh snow makes this VERY easy), it had been running, and seven or eight coyotes had been chasing it. It is my belief that they took it by running it to death, which is a tactic they use on deer in that general area. Of course, some of the coyotes in this small area are much larger than most ‘experts’ suggest they can grow. In response to a sheepherder neighbor’s request, my friend and I staged a hunt to get rid of a couple of ‘monster’ coyotes that he was complaining about. He said he had lost six sheep in two weeks, so we agreed to help, assuming that what we were probably going to find was a cougar, which are quite plentiful in Nor Cal.

    We were skeptical, but after some hard work, I took a coyote that weighed-in at 46 lbs, and my friend took another that was over 50. That is a BIG coyote. Since I no longer live on the ranch, and since my survival no longer hinges on the survival of livestock, I no longer hunt coyotes.

    This is not to say that I don’t think there are black cats.

    I do not doubt that there are black cats running around in Oaklahoma. I do not doubt that there may be a subspecies of cougar that may frequently come in black. If I was still hunting, I would very much like to take some my friends, some rifles and cameras, and some of the tactics we have learned down into Oaklahoma. If this kitty-cat down there IS a leapord, then leapord-hunting tactics must be put into operation; whether the eventual goal is to photo it or drop its carcass onto a wildlife expert’s desk. If it’s a Jaguar, then Jaguar-hunting tactics must be used. If it is a Cougar, well, you get the idea. The tactics used for successful hunts on each of these big cats are VERY different, and I fail to see why they would not use them; even if the primary weaponry they plan to use is photography. If standard “Cougar” tactics aren’t working, it may be a fair bet that they are dealing with something else. If I had the time, I’d be down there decked out in camo, snug in a blind, watching a bait-tree with sweaty palms and cold chills, listening to the crunch of dead leaves, feeling the wind on my face…

    Just a thought.

  17. rchambers responds:

    about 35 years ago I lived in el paso ark, there was two black panthers on the prowl. All us kids had to be in before dark you could hear them screaming in the night. They where attacking horses some of the older men would be out at night to try and kill them when they would come for their horses. I was with my parents in the pasture and had two run across. Then when I was about 18 yrs old I was deer hunting on bull creek the same area of all the sightings. I was sitting on a limb in a tree not very high when a coal black panther walked up under me growling. He was huge as the one at the little rock zoo. I aimed at him but chickened out. What if I wound him he could be on me in a second, so I just let him walk away. Soon as i could I left. So when I hear there are no black panthers in Arkansas, I just laugh but I’m sure there not many anymore but they used to be very common in Arkansas 200 years ago.

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