Arkansas Panther Followup

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on December 29th, 2006

The author of the article that I spotlighted in my post entitled Panther Attacks in Arkansas! had this to say here at Cryptomundo:

Hi, ya’ll. Warren Watkins here, author of this article on the panther attacks here in Arkansas.

My understanding is that a puma is not native to North America, and the animals referred to here are known as panthers, mountain lions or cougars.

I agree there is obvious evidence of a reproducing panther population in Arkansas. I travel a lot in the state and talk to a lot of hunters and country folk, and seldom do I find anyone in those two categories who denies a reproducing panther population. It’s just taken for granted that we have panthers in Arkansas. Rare, yes, but hardly so few as to believe they are former pets.

Shooting a panther for self-protection is legal, as you can see from my follow-up article (posted below) on a second sighting a week later near Plainview, a few miles north of Searcy and not far from those referenced in the first article.

Killing animal for personal protection is legal, commission says

Friday, December 22, 2006 6:09 PM CST

By Warren Watkins
The Daily Citizen (Searcy, AR)

Another panther has been spotted near the community of Plainview in north White County.

Reports last week were that one or two panthers, also called a mountain lion or cougar, had been seen several times four miles north of Searcy on Foster Chapel Road. Plainview is four miles north of Searcy, but about five miles away from the first sightings and on the opposite side of the Little Red River, so the latest reports may represent a different animal.

April Skinner almost hit a panther with her car Monday, Dec. 18. on Harden Mill Road.

“I seen a panther right down the road from me,” Skinner said. “It was black and had yellow eyes.”

Officials say a brown panther often appears black at night, and there are no black panthers. Pumas, not found in North America, are black and are the size of tigers.

“I was coming back from the grocery store last night and was driving kinda slow,” Skinner said Tuesday. “I thought I seen something in the road, and it was big. I didn’t really know what it was because it was dark, but when I got up close it had jumped into a bush and sunk its head down low. It had a great big head. I seen great big yellow eyes glowing at me. It had a great big old long tail.”

Skinner said Larry and Debby Harrison, also on Harden Mill Road, had seen the panther several times. Sonya Spears, Skinner’s mother-in-law who lives on Red River Shores Road, has also seen the panther.

“A year ago I saw a big black animal jump the fence. It ran so fast it scared me. I thought it was a deer at first,” Spears, said. “I called the game and fish commission because we have a lot of small children in the area.”

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began its latest monthly meeting with a discussion of the sightings, issuing a statement to the public from board chairman Sheffield Nelson.

Citizens can defend themselves if they feel they are in eminent danger from an animal, according to the statement, and shouldn’t be afraid to go out into the wilds of Arkansas for fear of being attacked by a mountain lion.

“People should know that if they feel that they are in danger, they can kill an animal to protect themselves,” Nelson said. “I don’t want people to be afraid to deer hunt because someone has released an animal into the wild.”

Mountain lions were historically present throughout Arkansas until their apparent eradication, which occurred by about 1920. Since that time efforts have been made to determine the existence of the animal in Arkansas.

There is no evidence that there is a wild, reproducing population of mountain lions in Arkansas, but it is probable there are a few free-ranging mountain lions that are most likely either escaped or released pets, rather than remnants of the state’s original mountain lion population.

In order to reduce the chance of escapes happening in the future, the commission passed regulations last year requiring owners of pet mountain lions to obtain permits and meet minimum caging standards in order to keep their animals.

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.

18 Responses to “Arkansas Panther Followup”

  1. Mnynames responds:

    As most here on Cryptomundo should know, Puma is just one of many names for mountain lion, and there is no direct evidence of melanism amongst mountain lions. So what are these people seeing? Melanistic mountain lions? Escaped leopards? Surviving American lions?

    Here’s a thought- I’m assuming that melanism is a recessive gene, but if it expressed itself in a small, very in-bred population, it might be quite prevalent. So what if one of those oft-assumed escaped pets, a melanistic leopard, say, encountered and bred with a small surviving remnant of eastern mountain lions? Might we then be seeing what so many have been reporting?

    Doesn’t really explain the worldwide distribution of mysterious black panthers, their lack of roadkill remains, or their seeming ability to disappear at will, but then, probably only a paranormal explanation would, which I think most of us would be reluctant to accept. Anyway, just a thought.

  2. Shihan responds:

    “…Pumas, not found in North America, are black and are the size of tigers…” ( What?) – Someone is not doing their research!

    Ignorant quotes aside, I have another suggestion as to the identity of the so-called melanistic “panthers” of North America. Jaguars used to be native to parts of North America and are known to carry the melanistic trait as leopards do. Is it not possible that these animals being seen today are remnant populations of jaguars? Keep in mind that even in areas where leopard and jaguar populations are dense, they are very rarely ever seen!

  3. titantim responds:

    I guess since there are no black panthers, the black 120lb cat I have seen at least 7 times is just a figment of my imagination. It’s odd that my mind doesn’t play tricks on me when I see deer and turkeys. I have never seen a black deer or have never seen a wild turkey that was white, but let a big cat walk out in front of me and he changes from brown to jet black in an instant. Hmmm, strange indeed!

  4. bill green responds:

    hey craig great very interesting new update follow up about the arkansas panther. bill.

  5. joppa responds:

    I think our Southern woods are teeming with panthers and maybe a few black pumas. I certainly believe that dozens of pet exotic animals have been released in the wild and many are doing quite well.

    As for seeing “black” panthers or Pumas, these cats do appear darker in color at night but especially in the fall. Like deer, the fur takes on a darker shade during winter months to blend with the surroundings, and can seem almost dark grey in certain light.

    The real question is when does an exotic become a native species ??? Wild hogs have been around for 500 years since Desoto ran his pig herd across the Southeast. Coyotes roam through the street of Atlanta taking care of the stray cats and dogs.

    I for one welcome the return, or is it the new arrival, of big cats to the Southern U.S. May they prosper like Kudzu and be part of a rich and diverse ecology of our wild places. It is refreshing that our big mammal lists includes more than deer, deer and more deer . Lets have more bear, big cats, wolves and hairy Napes to keep us closer to the campfire when we visit the wild woods. What fun !!!

  6. DWA responds:

    Sheesh. The puma is once again a victim of his many names.

    As I think could be gleaned from the above but just to emphasize: puma, panther, catamount, cougar and mountain lion — among other names — describe the exact same North (and South) American animal.

    Whether it has a melanistic phase, or just exactly where the breeding populations are, I’ll leave to the biologists. But let’s get all those names straight. 😀

  7. One Eyed Cat responds:

    I have always in all references seen ‘puma’ as another word for cougar or Mountain Lion.

    Another term rarely seen now is ‘catamount’.

    Perhaps Mr. Watkins could share his definition of puma.

    Shihan: interesting idea. But can jaguars and cougars breed? They are different species to my knowledge.

  8. sschaper responds:

    Felines interbreed. On that basis, they would be all one species. There is a lot of irregularity in what is labeled a species and what is not.

  9. kittenz responds:

    Pumas the size of tigers and jet black. My my. This from a reporter? Does the Searcy, Arkansas “Daily Citizen” not have a fact-checker?

    Puma is the preferred name for Puma concolor (still referred to as Felis concolor by some). The reasoning is that puma is a Native American word, whereas “cougar” is from the French and “mountain lion” is really a misnomer. Whatever you call them they are definitely not tiger-sized black animals. And they are most definitely native to both North and South America.

    Although I have seen a few references to melanistic pumas, I have never been able to find the original source of such references, and have never seen a photo of one. White pumas with ordinary black puma markings have been reported from time to time from British Columbia. Pumas’ fur is of such a dense nature, and their underfur and skin of such a dark color, that in the shade of rocks or forest, or backlit, someone could easily mistake a normal tawny-colored puma for black, especially if they caught just a glimpse of it.

    That’s not to say that I don’t believe that melanistic pumas exist. I believe that they do, although they are perhaps in small localized populations. Melanistic forms occur in almost every species of cat, except for lions, snow leopards, lynxes, and tigers. (There are a few anecdotal reports of melanistic lions and tigers, but such individuals are anomalies, and those species do not have a recognized melanistic phase.) In leopards the melanism is a recessive trait but in jaguars it is a dominant one, and in jaguars especially, melanism has a very wide range of variation. The inheritance of melanism in other species has not been as thoroughly studied, because the smaller and medium-sized cats are not common enough in captivity, for the most part, for large-scale breeding experiments to have been done.

    Pumas and leopards are much the same size, and have been bred in captivity. The resulting animals are among the most beautiful cats I have seen. Here is a link with photos.

    As far as I know, no attempt was made to breed the offspring from such crosses, so I do not know if they were fertile. If they follow the pattern of most cat species, the females in the F1 generation would be fertile but the F1 males would be sterile. Males from about the F3 or later generations are usually fertile.

    I have seen references to puma-jaguar crosses, but I do not know if they really took place. Jaguars have been crossed with lions and leopards, and the offspring from that cross can be gorgeous animals. (In the past, jaglions have been exhibited by unscrupulous shysters as “rare spotted lions”.) This is a link to pictures of jaglions which were born from an accidental breeding at a Canadian sanctuary. Pumas have also been crossed with ocelots, and the resulting kittens were apparently viable, living for several days, although none survived to adulthood.

    So ARE there big black cats in Arkansas, and if so, what kind of cats? I believe that there are pumas there. Whether they are black or tawny I believe that they exist. I believe that melanistic puma/leopard hybrids could have occurred in the wild, If an escaped or abandoned leopard mated with a wild puma. I can conceive of that happening. The puma population probably being very low, if a black leopard, or a leopard carrying a black recessive, was in heat, it could very well attract a male puma, (or vice versa). If any kittens (cubs?) survived to breed, then melanism could have been introduced into the eastern pumas population that way.

    Anyone who does not think that there are a lot of escaped exotic cats should go here and look at the list of big cat “incidents” and escapes. And these are just the ones that have been reported.

    I do not believe that escapes account for all the big cats sightings, however. There are pumas in the East, and their numbers are increasing. And I would not be too surprised to learn of other big cats, living and possibly even breeding in the wild in the US.

  10. Shihan responds:

    One-eyed-cat -Good question! Actually – I hadn’t even thought of jaguars mating with pumas, though I suppose it’s possible. I was simply talking about native (presumed extinct) jaguars. Interesting thought, what would a jag/puma cross look like? Hmmm – a lot like a big cat that no one could explain I suppose!

  11. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Thank you kittenz:

    A few facts is what we need to see the true ways this could go. It is better to know nature’s rules to build possibilities on.

  12. Sunny responds:

    Thanks, Kittenz, for linking to Big Cat Rescue — maybe not cryptids, but a very under-recognized and under-funded group dedicated to saving the ones deliberately misplaced by the well-intended (but sadly misinformed and unprepared). A worthy place to make those last-minute charitable deductions for this year! (no, I’m not affiliated with them in any way)

  13. peteHZ responds:

    Deary me, the confusion in that article of what is actually meant by Puma and Panther makes it quite hard to read!

  14. yowies responds:

    Felines interbreed.

    Felines of the same species can interbreed.

    On that basis, they would be all one species.

    If what you were implying was true, yes.

    There is a lot of irregularity in what is labeled a species and what is not.

    Where? I thought there was a lot of irregularity in what is a true subspecies.

    If melanistic pumas exist, why is there not one zoo/museum specimen/photo/video.

    Something is odd.

  15. swnoel responds:

    Black Panther


  16. One Eyed Cat responds:

    If Mr. Watkins is confusing puma and panther, we may have the reason for the confusing terms. Puma is cougar, etc.

    Panther is sometimes used as a short form of Black Panther. Which, as far as I know, are the melanistic form of only jaguars and leopards.

    Watkins still needs to hone his research skills as jaguars did roam some southwest states.

  17. David S responds:

    There are possibilities of creatures that could travel from one place to another that is not their place because they were never found there before. I live here in Arkansas out in the country near Russellville, and we have seen many species that was never seen before. We know that scorpions have been moving eastward since they are usually be found in deserts. Another specie that I saw that I usually seen in Arizona and California is the roadrunner.

    Plus you have alligators moving westward like finding one in a pond or something in southern Oklahoma a few years back. Killer bees and also piranhas have also been seen in the US.

    So, anything can be possible on what people see anywhere.

  18. Archaic responds:

    I am a resident of both Arkansas and Texas, and until I saw the latest episode of ‘Monster Hunter’ I had no idea that the black cats in the area around me were a mystery, or a myth. I have grown up with it as a fact. There are panthers in my area, or so I am told by numerous people include my parents, who are the least likely people to believe such things, that live wild just like resident cougars.

    The black panthers in their ‘native’ areas are said to sound just like a woman screaming. The panthers in my area are said to sound exactly the same. Many people have thought the sounds to be made by an actual woman. I’ve never had a face to face experience myself, thankfully, nor have I heard their screams myself. Friends of mine have, and I trust them, because they see this creature as a factual inhabitant as I do, and not as a fanciful one such as the sasquatch or our own Fouke Monster myths.

    I am not a scientist, nor do I hold an influential rank of any kind. I haven’t even graduated High School yet, so it is up to you if you find my accounts credible or not. I am simply putting what I know for others to see. It is up to them to interpret it how they wish.

Leave your comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.

|Top | Content|

Connect with Cryptomundo

Cryptomundo FaceBook Cryptomundo Twitter Cryptomundo Instagram Cryptomundo Pinterest


Creatureplica Fouke Monster Sybilla Irwin


|Top | FarBar|

Attention: This is the end of the usable page!
The images below are preloaded standbys only.
This is helpful to those with slower Internet connections.