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New Mystery Panther Photo

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 18th, 2008

The most frequently and quietly discussed cryptids in America are the mystery cats, the phantom felines, the so-called “Black Panthers” of legend and lore. Many people say they see them, so much so they are taken for granted in many parts of the country.

While most photographs of “black cats” taken across fields turn out to be nothing more than long-distance pictures of the neighborhood tom-cats, once in a blue moon I’m shown a photograph that has me wondering.

This week one such image came my way.

Please see the attached pdf photograph file which shows an apparent black panther. Please note the use of the words “mystery cat” and “apparent” here. This is a felid, but what kind?

It was sent to me by a Cryptomundo correspondent who notes it was taken by a game camera in South DeSoto Parish, Louisiana. He first heard about the photo in late 2005, and has been trying to track a copy for some time. He finally did, as shown.

He reports that the farmer did not want anyone to know about the exact location because he didn’t want people bothering his deer lease.

Now, word comes that near this same site, two weeks ago, a reported Black Panther was killed. But there was no big deal made of it because they just were known for being seen around there for years. More confirmation of that kill is being pursuited.

As to the photograph, the object in front of the Mystery Cat or alleged Black Panther is a bale of hay, obviously sitting at an angle to the game-cam.

The standard bale of hay measures 4 feet long by 18 inches tall by 14 inches wide.

No known, recognized, or verified forms of black or melanistic panthers, pumas, cougars, mountain lion, or whatever you want to call them are known from Louisiana. Needless to say, a find of a dead black puma, i.e. mountain lion, or classic black panther, i.e. melanistic leopard (that is not a former captive) in Louisiana would be a remarkable cryptozoological discovery.

Black ~ melanistic ~ jaguars are not native to Louisiana. There are no confirmed feral populations of escaped melanistic leopards in Louisiana.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


48 Responses to “New Mystery Panther Photo”

  1. DARHOP responds:

    Hmmm. Now this looks like it could be for real. Still kinda hard to tell its size. But it sure looks bigger than other supposed Panther photos I’ve seen here. Kool!

  2. calash responds:

    Interesting photo and not to be a skeptic but, is it normal for game cams to not have a year stamp in the date?

    The object in the fore ground looks more square then the hay bails I am familiar with (but I’m no farmer) Also is there a grinning face on the end of the hay bale?

    From a distance it looks good but in close-up the head reminds me of a domestic cat. Also are cougar ears pointed like that? I thought they were more rounded like the cougar in the faked image from May of 07( See Cryptomundo, May 22, 2007) that showed a photoshop image of a cougar approaching a building. Also the cougar in the May image had a more lion like face.

    I will let someone more knowledgeable comment on the potential photoshop aspects.

    Best Regards

  3. Richard888 responds:

    Is the possibility being explored that this may be a melanistic jaguar? I think they are supposed to exist in the Southern US, right?

  4. Endroren responds:

    The object in front of it looks a lot like a halloween themed leaf bag ( http://picasaweb.google.com/adamdmenzies/HalloweenDecorations/photo#5118575527045677282 .)

  5. Carni77 responds:

    Domestic House Cat. Just zoom in on the picture. Fairly obvious, but when zoomed out it is misleading.

  6. m_faustus responds:

    I am pretty sure that that is not a bale of hay. I think that it is a salt lick for cattle and/or deer. They are quite a bit smaller than a bale of hay, say a 1 foot cube. So, all in all, I think that the house cat ID is right.

  7. DesertFox82 responds:

    I have to agree that the head profile doesn’t seem to resemble a panther or jaguar, but more of a house cat. The ears are quite pointed, and so is the chin. That block in the foreground doesn’t look much like a full bale of hay to me, either, but more like a feed block of some kind to draw in deer.

    I’d say, very unscientifically, that the animal seems to be about knee-high, which is still pretty big for a house cat. I call a tentative Photoshop.

  8. Kainan responds:

    The object in the photo with the cat looks much more like a mineral salt block with some plant detritus on top, than a bale of hay to me. The sides of the object look much too smooth to be hay. This would make the cat much smaller than a panther. Also, if one uses the leaf litter on the ground to put the image into size-perspective, at least in my judgment, puts the animal more within the size range of a domestic cat. Are there feral panthers in the south? Why not? Is this a picture of one of those panthers? I don’t believe so.
    Kainan

  9. edgar responds:

    The first thing that immediately stands out in the photo is, while the cat is very dark, so are the portions of the hay bale that are in the shadows.

    The color values also seem a bit odd. In fact, submitting the picture as a .pdf file seems rather odd to me.

    “No known, recognized, or verified forms of black or melanistic panthers, pumas, cougars, mountain lion, or whatever you want to call them are known from Louisiana.”

    As far as I know, there has never been a black or melanistic cougar verified in the United States, period. While the “Cherokee Cougar” is interesting, and certainly appears to be a dark P. concolor, it’s never been confirmed to even be from the US.

    “Now, word comes that near this same site, two weeks ago, a Black Panther was killed. But there was no big deal made of it because they just were known for being seen around there for years. More confirmation of that kill is being pursuited.”

    Good luck on that. AFAIK, Louisiana is not one of the states where cougar hunting is legal. Also, the Eastern Cougar is protected under the Endangered Species Act, so anyone shooting a cougar in Louisiana would have to prove it’s a western subspecies. So it may be difficult for an ‘outsider’ to gather anything beyond anectdotal evidence.

  10. pcs800 responds:

    Three legged house cat too. :-)

    If you zoom in about 800 to 1000%, you can see some vertical lines running up the cats rear end, about where the 4th leg would be if the artist had not cut it out.

  11. Rappy responds:

    Ahh, always good to see something coming from my state. There is a good amount of black panther tales from around where I live, and similar woodlands, but this seems a bit odd. The object doesn’t really look like a haybale, more like a criosote pole piece of a salt lick, both of which I have seen left behind in places before. Also, the ears are just…not really big catish, more like bobcat with the points (although that leaves the tail as opposing evidence). I would love to say this is the great big “yes photo”, but it isn’t. Something smells fishy.

  12. jasonencounter responds:

    I live just south of Dallas/Fort Worth in a “rural turning suburb fast” area. We see cougars annually (inside my neighbors 8 foot fence last Christmas) and friends of mine had a mother and some cubs ( 2 feet high- don’t know how old that would make them) on her property last year.

    She commented that one of the cubs was a dark, dark brown all over, much like a “black panther”. She and her family saw them frequently during that season, and enjoyed watching them play around.

    This photo looks like what I imagined the cat would have looked like on my friends property. I never had it in my head that the coloration was overly strange.

  13. Richard888 responds:

    It looks like a female house cat. The trees could be bamboo size giving the illusion of a big cat walking through medium trees. The cubic object could be anything and does not look like a hay stack.

    When there is talk about a big melanistic cats people think Cougar (puma concolor). Can’t large black cats spotted in the US be melanistic jaguars (panthera oca)? Just a thought.

  14. swnoel responds:

    I agree … common mineral block and domestic house cat

  15. Saint Vitus responds:

    The ears look pointed. Black bobcat maybe? I don’t think the black panthers seen in the US are melanistic jaguars, those are rare even in captivity, and jags are not native to the Southeast.

  16. cuitlamiztli responds:

    Pointed ears don’t automatically rule out pumas–see exhibit a and exhibit b for examples. They’re the largest of the small cats, after all. With that said, the proportions still look a little off, and bring “domestic cat” or “bobat” to mind before “puma.”

  17. maslo63 responds:

    At first is did appear to be a panther to me but upon zooming it it does look like a domestic cat. The object in front is not a hay bale (and I am a farmer) and I am skeptical of it being taken with a game cam. I have game cam an it displays the full date and camera brand on the bottom. There are however different game cams so it could be one I’m not familier with.

  18. red_pill_junkie responds:

    I also see the pointed ears, as Saint Vitus. But I also kind of find the size of the head out of proportion with the rest of the body -size seems to small.

    I would love to have a person standing in the same area to compare scales, instead of trying to figure out the size of the hay bails.

  19. Tobar responds:

    The first thing that I thought when I saw the picture was a melanistic bobcat.

  20. giantchaser responds:

    I think this could actually be a panther..or a domestic house cat, superimposed onto the scenery, I zoomed in and noticed a lighter area that seemed blurred to help the cat fit in better with the surrounding area. Did anyone else notice this? I am not an expert, nor do I claim to be, these are just my opinions and observations.

  21. Ann Unknown responds:

    On magnification the animal appears to have a mottled appearance; however, this could be due to the graininess of the photo at this scale. I do not think the back leg has been cut by a Photoshop process. I think it is hidden behind the leg in the foreground. The ears appear to be overly large and out of proportion to those I would expect to see on any large cat species that I am familiar with. Even the clump of grass to the right of the figure may be a large bladed variety, and there is really nothing in the picture to give any clue to the scale. My opinion: a large black domestic cat, in a recently clearcut wood lot, walking up to a salt-lick.

  22. olejason responds:

    That’s definitely not a bale of hay. How many people do you know that put out hay for deer? How many put out salt licks?

    Just a big house cat imo. That’s not to say I don’t believe in the big black cats :)

  23. sschaper responds:

    The morphology of the animal is that of a house cat. The alleged hay bale (more like 3 foot on the long axis, not four for standard old-fashioned square bales that I’m familiar with) could be anything, a hewn stone, mineral block, piece of wood, who knows. The leaves are a little more identifiable as to size, giving us a house cat in size as well.

    People did used to put out hay bales for deer, but now that they are so common as to be a nuisance, no longer.

  24. Mothmanfan responds:

    the cat looks… round…

    and i agree with giantchaser. there does seem to be a lighter oulining, but that could be the glare off its fur or something. i dont know anything about photoshopping things, so i wouldnt know.

  25. maslo63 responds:

    Olejason; If the camera that took the photo is a game camera it makes sense to put out hay or a salt lick in order to lure the animals in front of it.

  26. giantchaser responds:

    Woo! someone agrees with me, and i didn’t really notice it was missing a leg until i got a closer look..almost definitely a badly super imposed image.

  27. Subvertia responds:

    I’ve been camping in the southern Arkansas/northern Louisiana area several times. I know that section of the country very well.

    About 10 years ago, I saw a very large all black cat in the Billy Creek camping area. I was petrified, and I thought immediately it was a panther.
    I remember talking to a Forest Ranger sometime after that incident about the panthers in the area, and have seen several caves where either panthers or brown bears live.
    Panther, Mountain Lion, and Cougar sightings are very common among the locals. I didn’t know it was a big deal until I saw this article actually.

    As for the photo, I don’t know if it’s real or not. I just know we have panthers here in Oklahoma and in Arkansas.
    A reference on this sitecheck the first comment
    Oklahoma Academy of Science

  28. SOCALcryptid responds:

    Come on, just a domestic house cat. I have a twenty five pound Ocicat and this one does not look over fifteen at most. Yes, the log in the middle of the pic looks bigger than the trees which makes the cat appear bigger. Notice how skinny the trees are. Now compare the cat to the trees not the stump and you get a normal sized domesticated house cat.

  29. kittenz responds:

    That does not look like a bale of hay, the cat looks like a domestic cat, and the cat in the photo looks like it may have been added separately to an existing photo. Plus, the backstory is hard to swallow.

    I’m going with fake on this one.

  30. WVBotanist responds:

    The post and subsequent comments intrigued me. Upon zooming in I could see the brighter outline that led other to the conclusion that the cat had been pasted into the shot. So I zoomed the .pdf and grabbed a layer copy, pasted it into Photoshop, and inverted it.
    When dealing with dark shades, a lot of what appears as black to the human eye, particularly from a PC monitor, can be highly variable. An inverse will reveal variations in negative tones that are more evident. So I expected to see some obvious and abrupt edges and shading errors. I was surprised to see shadow detail that was surprisingly consistent with the rest of the landscape shading, particular on the cat’s back.
    See the image HERE .

    That led me to speculate on size and scale, but first a few notes on the inverted image. Not all of the lighter areas are sun-flecks. The high variability in the area around the lick/bale is probably spread feed, either a grain mix (corn, etc) or sweet feed pellets. Both commonly used for baiting deer and other game animals. If it is not a sun-fleck, the coloration on the lick/bale is strange.

    I identified a foreground leaf in the litter as a post oak or similar species, likely to be the largest species of leaf in the litter, at an approximate 5-8″ length. I assumed 5. I found a less identifiable leaf, but large enough to see that it was a large representative of the mid-ground leaf litter, and assumed it was similar in size. That provided a linear conversion for perspective; assuming of course that the lens didn’t vary much in magnification or distortion between the edges and middle. But this was just for my own curiosity. You can see some of my other assumptions in the image.

    The resulting size estimates are well within both hay bale and panther range (note that no attempt was made to determine the hay bale length).

    A few other notes – panther ears are rounded when presented forward, but may easily appear this acute with slightly laid back (caution or stalking). For example, a satellite dish appears round from the front, but not at 45 degrees to the side. Panther ears swivel to some degree as they lay backwards.

    Note the swayback. It is interesting, and would be somewhat extreme in any housecat I know.

    The missing leg – possible obscured by the other leg. A feline walking pattern doesn’t follow four equal and independent footfalls, but is highly variable. Hindlegs aren’t always spaced the same distance as forelegs.

    Bottom line, I find this intriguing, too. A lot of these measurements are hinging on some sloppy assumptions, but I found it satisfying that I did the measurements with no numerical concept of panther size (in inches) in mind, but checked the range later.

  31. Kushtaka responds:

    Proof! At last! Domestic cats are real! I used to own a domestic cat that was about 3 ft long and 30 lbs. And, according to my vet, “He’s just a large breed. Only one pound overweight.” That’s alot of purr!

    This is not a Big Cat. Like others have stated, the shape of the ears and head give it away, if nothing else.

    I still believe in cats, though.

  32. Imaginary Friend responds:

    Hmmm – that’s obviously not a hay bale – it’s not even shaped like a small one because it’s too square and seems made of stone or mineral. The cat is interesting – not a bobcat because it’s got a tail. It does have long legs for a house cat, but I’ve seen some huge male tomcats before. If I saw that, I would wonder if it was wild or domestic, though. Perhaps a feral tomcat?

  33. PhotoExpert responds:

    It’s real! A real nice photo of a domestic black cat! Simply enlarge the photograph and voila, house cat revealed.

  34. plant girl responds:

    It appears to look like a big cat however the bail of straw or stone in the picture makes it look to planned out. that is just my opinion.

  35. plant girl responds:

    I have seen huge housecats. Many bigger than some dogs. This could be an overfed housecat.

  36. MattBille responds:

    While an admitted city boy, all I can say is it doesn’t look right. The pointiness of the left ear does not bother me – that could well be due to the angle of the shot. There is one odd detail, a light vertical splotch right above the tail. I can’s see the “roman nose” of a cougar, and the tail looks too small, even though some of it bent behind the body.

    Finally, I can’t see any difference, from this angle, between this animal and my solid black house cat who conveniently just walked through my office as I write this. I won’t say “impossible,” but I would definitely put my money on “big tomcat.”

  37. kittenz responds:

    I enlarged that photo and stood back and looked at it. I could clearly see a point of light reflecting off the left eye, and the play of light and shadow along the lines of the face. The proportions of the face and body just do not look like a puma or even a bobcat. The eyes look large for the size of the face, just like a housecat.

  38. fallofrain responds:

    I just wanted to make a comment about trail cameras. I’ve been using them for about 15 years. The early ones (and maybe some newer ones) weren’t self-contained. They were cumbersome arrangements using standard point-and-shoot film or digitial cameras. That may be one explanation where there isn’t much in the way of recorded data on this photo.

  39. mystery_man responds:

    It’s an otter.

  40. giantchaser responds:

    Well, I think we have all established now that this is no more than an fat house cat, but is it superimposed over the scenery? I zoomed in to about 6400% and looked where you would think its leg would be, there was an apparent blur there.

  41. Rillo777 responds:

    That’s NOT a bale of hay. Believe me, I’ve seen plenty of them and handled many. That’s a salt lick, which hunters often put out to attract deer. And what’s behind it is a big old housecat. Please notice the shape of the head and ears. Domestic feline.

  42. zoom8 responds:

    This ‘panther’ does not look much like the one I’ve seen here in St. Helena Parish at 6:45 in the morning (late January) at less than 90 ft. from up in my deerstand. I saw the big cat, tip of nose to base of tail, broad-side, he was a good 5-1/2 ft. and thick velvety solid black fur. He looked directly at me for about 4 seconds before slinking into the trees. His tail was thick and went on FOREVER (approx. the length of his body). His head was thick and puma shaped but just a bit longer with rounded ears. His eyes were gold. Yes, I got THAT GOOD OF A LOOK AT HIM. When his tail disappeared into the treeline, I kept asking myself if I had really just seen what I thought I did, but my heart was pounding, so I know i did. Well, I pondered this and decided to light a cigarette, knowing I wouldn’t see any deer that morning. Ha! – as I took the 2nd draw, a doe came from the same direction but half the distance closer to me. She had her head high smelling all directions and never checked up as she went into the woods. Missed that shot, what a weird morning!

  43. Zebster responds:

    That “salt lick” looks pretty wooden to me. Definitely a “domestic” cat, but most likely feral. Most domestics that size are toms, and that’s clearly a female. Judging from the leaf litter, it looks like it’s about the size of a fox – we have populations of ferals in central VA that routinely grow that big.

  44. ETxArtist responds:

    Bobcat, from a field biologist living in the swamps of ETx. Seen a lot of them out in the woods, they walk like that, have variable patterns and tails shaped just like that, which they flick around when they’re curious or nervous. Saltlick, too, on a deer lease. Would be just the sort of picture someone would take to see what size deer are in the area, espcially within the last few months. Just my impressions.

  45. ajdogg responds:

    Ah, the Black Panther has returned! This is something almost everyone in the Southeast hears about from time to time, sightings of a large, black cat, usually alone, prowling the woods. While I myself have yet to see, or hear one, some of my friends claim to have seen them while out hunting, usually around dusk. Some of the stories I really wonder about, especially when it’s from a hardcore hunter that generally isn’t scared by anything they might come across in the woods. Anyways, on to the Mystery Panther.

    While at first glance this really looks genuine, it’s too hard to tell based solely on the surrounding environment. It seems that everything is in miniature here. Not saying it’s all an elaborate set, created by someone with way too much time on their hands, just saying that those trees don’t look to be large, and the salt lick, well, looks like a salt lick sized object.

    The cat itself is just that, a cat. Check this out…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_panther
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Jaguar.jpg

    And quoted from an article on Wiki:

    “Despite anecdotes to the contrary, all-black coloring (melanism) has never been documented in cougars.[18] The term “black panther” is used colloquially to refer to melanistic individuals of other species, particularly jaguars and leopards.”

    The article can be found here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cougar

    While I do think there could be some sort of rather large, black feline in the Southeast, I just can’t agree with this being one of those rare cats that we all drool over. And for my final thesis on the matter, I think I’ll go take some pics of my kitty in a similarly wooded area, and compare. Sure, I’ll share!

  46. mafabo responds:

    I live on the out skirts of a small Mississippi town that has less that 500 people living in it and my neighborhood is surrounded by Holly Springs National Forest. There are around 14 homes on a this old long country road and its quite here so we are used to seeing deer and turkey roam at will out here. Not far is a huge lake also. Anyway I have seen a huge black cat and so have a few of my neighbors. I happen to be the first to see this beautiful cat one summer morning around 6 am about 12-15 years ago. At first I didn’t believe my eyes as I looked out my kitchen window at the animal. But this was indeed a huge cat I believe looking out my window that I could have been no futher than 150 yards from the cat. As it passed a telephone pole in that field I got a guess of how big it was and how much it weighed,my guess was 100-110 pounds. Its tail was almost as long as its body,its body all black except it looked to have a small white patch under the neck. I watched the cat and later when my husband got up I told him about this and he and another neighbor and I went to the spot I saw it disappear,sure enough there were tracks by the creek bank. I wish I could have gotten a video or photo. None of our dogs barked now that I think back about it.
    The bale of hay in the photo looks like a huge rotting tree stump or a block of salt to me.

  47. judd responds:

    The block in the photo appears to be mineral block with block topper poured over it. Usual mineral blocks are around 12-18 inches cubed and the cat’s head is pretty narrow and pointed unlike a cougar or panther.

  48. John A. Lutz responds:

    We submitted this photograph to our Eastern Puma Research Network Scientific Advisory Specialists, who responded “although this cat appears to be black, the color appears distorted by background hues. Its believed the coat color is more of a charcoal, than black.



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