More Black Panther Denial

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on January 29th, 2007

Cryptomundo reader kittenz tipped me off to this one.

‘Life-changing event’: Panther chases forester
The State, Columbia SC

A federal forester says he was chased into the Chattooga River by a 7-foot-long panther with “jet black” fur.

Terrance Fletcher, a technician with the U.S. Forest Service, dove into the frigid water and crawled up the bank in South Carolina to escape.

“The animal started running … so I decided to run and get away and jump in the river to get across to the other side,” Fletcher said this week. “It was a life-changing event for me.”

The incident occurred the second week in January along the mountain river separating Georgia and South Carolina.

Black panthers are not native to the southeastern United States, meaning Fletcher might have seen a river otter or a bobcat, state wildlife officials in Georgia and South Carolina said.

Still, Fletcher and Forest Service District Ranger Dave Jensen said they think he saw some sort of large cat on the Georgia side of the river.

“It was a little too big to be a bobcat,” Fletcher said. “My first impression was a panther.”

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources found no evidence of large cat tracks in the area where Fletcher said he saw the animal, but the Georgia DNR’s Kevin Lowrey said it’s possible a black panther was lurking in the woods.

If so, it was probably an exotic pet that escaped, he said. His agency regularly receives reports of people seeing cougars, large tawny cats that were once native to Georgia and South Carolina. Officials say the creatures are likely escaped pet cougars or other animals, rather than wild cougars.

“We don’t have a native black cat in the United States,” Lowrey said. “That just tells me it was something released.”

Lowrey, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia agency, said people hiking or fishing along the Chattooga River should not be overly concerned. The river is the only federally designated wild and scenic river in South Carolina, and it is popular with recreational enthusiasts.

Lowrey said folks should always be aware of their surroundings when in the forest.

Fletcher, a 24-year-old Alabama native, said he and another Forest Service technician were surveying trails on the Georgia side of the river south of the Burrells Ford bridge when they separated.

While taking a break near the river bank, Fletcher heard rustling in the woods and looked in that direction. Staring back at him was what appeared to be a black panther, crouched on the forest floor like a house cat stalking a bird, he said.

When he stood up, the cat started running, prompting him to take the icy dip in the Chattooga. Soaked to the skin and freezing, he met up with his partner and walked through the woods to their Forest Service truck.

“We just got on out of there,” Fletcher said, adding he remains a bit spooked by the incident. “I don’t know how long (the feeling) will last.”Sammy Fretwell

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 “More Black Panther Denial”

  1. swnoel responds:

    I’ve come to a realization that most state wildlife agencies will deny the existence of BF, wolves and big cats.

    It may be because admitting could result in the rabid animal rights movement successfully stopping all forestry practices, hunting, trapping, etc. in an entire state, through court order to protect endangered species.

    I’m sure most sightings are just misidentifications of a common species.

  2. kittenz responds:

    I’d really like to know for sure if this one was a panther. My sister lives near that area and frequently takes her sons’ Boy Scout and Cub Scout groups on long hikes in that vicinity.

    Just in case they will be packing cameras and being extra cautious on future hikes.

  3. fuzzy responds:

    Kittenz ~ According to the report, a large black cat stalked and ran at (attacked) an adult human being.

    If your sister takes little Cub Scouts into that area, she had better pack something more than a camera!

  4. Ceroill responds:

    This is interesting. I recall a book published in the 70’s I believe, called simply Phenomena. One of the topics there was large black cats in England, but I don’t recall it being mentioned about the US. This topic seems very Fortean to me. That is, the experience of meeting ‘animals out of place’. But at this point I’m truly beginning to doubt the absoluteness of the ‘ranges’ that have been assigned to animals in general.

  5. Mnynames responds:

    The number of ABC’s (Alien Big Cats) reported in Britain is simply ridiculous. You’d think every lord and lady kept a panther for a pet, then couldn’t afford the permit when the laws changed in 1976 and released them all. What’s interesting is that reports go back well into the 1950’s, although they do increase dramatically in the 80’s leanding some weight to the notion that many of them were recently released. Although at least one researcher put forth the theory that they are somehow Pleistocene survivors, and several favour placing them in the same category as the spectral black dogs seen so frequently there, the general consensus is that they must all have been introduced, or the offspring of those that were.

    Many of them are indeed black, but many describe what could only be Cougars, which of course are not endemic to that continent at all and, I would think, an unlikely choice of pet, even during the days of the “great white hunters.” Roadkill has also been found, and several shot, but these have all been smaller types like Lynxes, North African Swamp Cats, and so on.

    BTW- It’s nice to see DNR standing by their guy, “He must have seen an otter”, indeed!

  6. kittenz responds:

    That’s true, fuzzy… she does not take them alone however, there are always several adults with the troops.

  7. Raptorial responds:

    I’ve spoken with black panther eyewitnesses, very credible ones, and it gets me angry any time they say such things. I don’t think that the government realizes the weight of sightings here in Louisiana alone.

  8. Craig Woolheater responds:

    You can read about the Black Panther sightings in Britain here on Cryptomundo at Black Panthers in the UK.

  9. kittenz responds:

    When I first read this story it really bugged me that the Georgia DNR could, on the one hand, say “it’s possible a black panther was lurking in the woods”, but on the other hand just shrug off the sighting as “possibly a river otter”. For one thing river otters themselves are rare, and they just do not look much like cats at all.

    But that’s beside the point. WHATEVER this guy saw, it scared him badly enough to cause him to jump into a river in the middle of January to try to get away from it! That takes a powerful lot of fright. It COULD have been something else, but I for one find this account very credible and I believe the guy saw a cat. I just cannot imagine an otter inspiring such abject fear in a human being.

    The article did not say specifically whether the animal ran toward the forest technician, but I think if it frightened him enough to cause him to jump in the river it probably wasn’t running away.

    There are a couple of possibilities that I can think of that could possibly be mistaken for a black panther, so let’s examine those possibilities.

    The most likely animals to find in the Georgia woods would be feral domestic dogs or cats. A very large black feral domestic cat might look like a panther, especially if someone came upon it suddenly. He could have been mistaken about the size. I have a kitten, Jethro (not black), whom I measured just recently. He’s a big fellow. At 8 months old he’s 35 inches from nose tip to tail tip, and he is still growing. He’ll be about a meter long give or take an inch or so when he gets his full growth. And a lot of cats are bigger than he is. But nobody would mistake him for a big cat. And feral domestic cats usually avoid people, they don’t stalk people and attack them.

    A black dog such as a shepherd or chow, or a mixed breed with similar pointed ears, might possibly be mistaken for a big cat. Possibly it was a big slinky dog stalking the man, or just groveling in submission as dogs do. Maybe when it ran it was running toward the man to attack, or maybe just because it was lost and recognized that he was a human which could help. A feral dog is slightly more believable as a possible case of mistaken identity than a feral domestic cat.

    There are a lot of black bears in Georgia. Black bears are known to stalk and attack people on occasion. Could a person mistake a black bear for a big cat? Maybe. But this guy was a trained forester. The article does not say how experienced he was, or how much forest training he had, but one would presume that he would have been taught how to recognize bears. So I do not think that it is likely to have been a bear. Possible, but not likely.

    Red wolves had a black color phase that was inky black. They are forest animals and were once native to Georgia. The black phase was common there at one time. But red wolves are not known to have ever attacked a human in the wild, and the black phase is thought to be extinct. Furthermore red wolves are officially extinct in the wild (except for a few pairs of reintroduced animals in North Carolina and Tennessee). I do not think it’s possible that this animal was a red wolf.

    Jaguarundi? Maybe. There are dark color phases of Jaguarundi, even black ones. They are much smaller than panthers – only about half again as big as a domestic cat. Their ancient range included parts of the southeastern USA. But by all accounts they are so rare in the USA that they would make eastern pumas look plentiful. And they are never known to have attacked humans.

    Otter? Utterly ridiculous. I don’t think that ANYONE could mistake an otter for a cat. Mink? Maybe, and minks are nasty-tempered little cusses. Wild minks do look sort of catlike. They can get pretty big too – bigger than a ferret – but nowhere near as big as a panther. They live near water, and maybe if it was a mink, it wasn’t actually attacking, but just trying to get back to the river. So mink, maybe. But very unlikely.

    What does that leave? If the animals was black (and the guy seems pretty sure) I think it must have been a leopard. Sure, there are black jaguars, too, but jaguars have not been seen in the wild in the eastern US for centuries. And jaguars do not attack people. But leopards often do. Black puma? Doubtful, unless there IS a population of black pumas that has never been documented. I think it was probably a leopard.

    Leopards are so adaptable. Of course they are not native to the New World, but if one were set free in the Georgia woods I have no doubt that it could survive.

    I think that the Georgia ought to AT LEAST set up a camera trap in the area. After all, the area is heavily used by people, for hiking and other recreation. Whatever this was it frightened a grown man who makes his living in the Georgia forests badly enough to jump fully clothed into a river in the middle of the winter to get away from it. They need to try to find out what it is NOW, while the leaves are off. Before it maybe attacks someone again.

  10. kittenz responds:

    *I think that the Georgia DNR ought to AT LEAST set up a camera trap in the area.

  11. joppa responds:

    Next summer, when 100,000 people start rafting the Chattanooga (where Deliverance was filmed) the mystery cat will have a lot of company. This area is still extremely wild, lots of wild life. I wonder if it could have been a feral hog, such as hogzilla. A forest service tech does not mean the guy was a wildlife expert, he could have very little wildlife experience and simply know how to mark timber for sale.

  12. kittenz responds:

    While it’s true that the man my not have had much wildlife experience, it would be awfully hard to mistake a hog for a cat.

  13. Darkstream responds:

    This news item made the Drudge Report today. They linked to the same story that Cryptomundo did. Is there a change in the wind? Is there new respect being gained by cryptozoology? Perhaps in this case, there is. It will be interesting to see if mainstreaming this story has a positive affect on the flow of black panther sightings.

    At any rate, it’s obvious that Matt Drudge is a closet Cryptomundo fan. 😉

  14. mystery_man responds:

    I am under the impression that the typical person is not going to mistake an otter for a big, black cat under any conditions. And considering he is a federal forester with probable experience with animals in the area, I would also say that it is unlikely he would mistake a dog for a black panther either although I won’t completely rule that option out. As Kittenz said, we have no information on how much experience this guy has, but I still am of the mind that he would know his large black cats from a bear, dog, or whatever. I am left thinking that this was probably a large black feline of some sort but still not sure of excactly what kind it could be.

  15. CASReaves responds:

    Most exotic pets (including wolves and wolf hybrids) are (last time I looked) prohibited in Georgia. If someone bootlegged a black leopard into the state and became worried about being caught with it, they might well have turned it loose. We have extensive areas of the Chatthoochee National Forest here in northwestern Georgia, and it would be VERY easy for a released big cat (or about any exotic predator) to make a good living for itself from the abundant deer in this area. Yes, I do go on camping and hiking trips with our Cub Scouts, but we ALWAYS have at least our Cub Master or assistant Cub Master on those hikes with us, as well as other parents, and our assistant Cub Master, at the least, I know carries because he’s the Georgia version of a CSI. The Cub Master is former Army and I doubt he goes totally unarmed into the woods anywhere. We camped at Salacoa Creek Park last June and listened to the coyotes howl, and I will tell you that I worry less about a wolf than I do about a pack of coyotes being around with young kids (the youngest Cub Scouts are 6). When we go on the trails, we have adults at the front and rear of every group, as well as interspersed through the Pack.

    Sadly, there has finally been a proven case of gray wolves killing a human – in Canada. Someone can now collect that grim $500 bounty for proof of a healthy wild wolf attacking and killing a human.

  16. kittenz responds:

    Actually that case of gray wolves killing a human in Canada has now been shown to have been a case of black bear predation. A black bear killed the man and partially ate him. It was at first thought that wolves did it because there were wolf tracks in the area, but it’s now known that it was a bear.

  17. kittenz responds:

    I found this on Big Cat Rescue’s website, in the section about laws regulating big cat owneship.
    Department of Natural Resources
    2109 US Highway 278
    SE Social Circle, GA 30025

    State Web Site
    Department Web Site

    Wildlife Exhibition permit requires that you must be over 18, must be USDA licensed, must have cages with scientific names posted, must conduct a minimum 12 hours education per year, special requirements for rabies prone animals; bats, coyotes, foxes, bobcats. Have specifications for humane handling, care, confinement and transportation of wildlife. Rehabilitation permit; has caging and housing, veterinary, handling requirements. Wild Animal License requires that you must be USDA licensed as breeder, dealer or exhibitor, must have insurance voucher for large felines; big cat species, snow leopard, mountain lion or cheetah, must have proof that no local ordinances forbid holding wildlife. Has regulation that specifies humane handling, care, confinement and transportation of wildlife. No permits issued for non-commercial possession of wild felines, i.e. no pets allowed.

    There are big loopholes in the law, and animals that were in private hands befoe that law was passed were grandfathered.

  18. wyatt responds:

    I at the age of 9 years old and living in Northern california in a small town called Alderpoint is were I had a sighting of a black panther. I was riding my bike with some friends at the local dump area. this is were the panther came out and stared at us eye to eye. I had a good look at this giant cat and it was beautiful. All we could do was just stare at and then got off our bikes and ran home scared out of our wits. I came home to tell my mom and she said she has seen it also. It was amazing I thought. I’m now 34 years old and it’s still vivid in my mind. I KNOW what I saw and to me I feel honored to have had that experience. I had always believed that this wonderful animal escaped from the circus. That’s just my thought.

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