Black Panthers Terrorizing Texas?

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on March 25th, 2007

Are black panthers terrorizing Dialville?

DIALVILLE – Residents here are treading lightly and keeping an eye out for black panthers, who many say have made the woods in the Dialville area their temporary home.

How long they’ll stay here is anybody’s guess, according to citizens living in the area, who are fearful of a “mother panther and her three cubs” who have been spotted along the Dialville Highway on County Road 1610.

“A lot of people are scared,” a source said. “They can bite your head off. There are neighborhoods and houses all around that area.” Game wardens have been notified, according to the source.

However, officials from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department say the animals may have been confused with another type of creature.

“We get these calls all the time. They’ve probably seen something else,” said TPWD biologist David Sierra. “The ‘black panther’ is an East Texas myth. It’s one of those things that’s hard to dispel.”

So if it’s not a black panther, then what exactly is making a stay in Cherokee County? Sierra said there are two forms of what East Texans call “black panthers,” which could be an all black leopard or jaguar, caused by a genetic mutation. But in either case, Sierra said the sighting itself in this area is more rare.

“That’s kind of odd, if they are even in this area, because we have no tracks, no pelts, no photographs … as far as we know, there are no records of them here in Texas. The leopard, which is probably the most common — it’s going to be found in Africa, in Asia, some Europe, and the Middle East. The jaguar is from South and Central America, and sometimes they can be found in Mexico. Sometimes it turns out to be a bobcat, which is very common in Texas, or some kind of lab or just a very large black house cat.”Hannah Buchanan
Jacksonville Daily Progress

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.

13 Responses to “Black Panthers Terrorizing Texas?”

  1. elsanto responds:

    A jaguarundi perhaps?

    Just my two cents.

  2. kittenz responds:

    It will probably turn out to have been something really mundane like a domestic cat, perhaps, or a dog. Maybe a black chow or shepherd or some such, with puppies, or a cat with kittens. By far the majority of “panther” sightings are misidentifications of ordinary animals.

    That being said, I would not rule out the possibility of black panthers in Texas. Texas has a huge population of captive exotic animals, practically unregulated, and sometimes those animals escape. People might be afraid to report escapes of big cats, for fear of being held responsible for injuries or damage they might cause.

    I think it’s less likely to be a wild big cat, because it apparently allows its cubs to come out into the open. An escaped captive big cat might be incautious enough to bring its cubs out where they could be seen by people. A truly wild cat probably would keep its kittens well hidden.

  3. mystery_man responds:

    Kittenz- I have heard of the amount of exotics being kept over in Texas, but I don’t know much about it. What are the laws and conditions like there for the keeping of these animals? Any info is appreciated.

  4. squatchwatcher responds:

    Yes, exotic pets that escaped their pens would be my first guess. Here’s a dumb question, is there reports of mountain lions that are black? It would probably be very rare, but I thought I read somewhere that it could happen. Just throwing some ideas out there.

  5. Bob Michaels responds:

    There are Reports of Jaguars being Black.Why not a Black cougar? there reports need further investigation.

  6. kittenz responds:

    There are literally hundreds of reports of black pumas/cougars/mountain lions, but not one verified sighting of a black Puma concolor have I ever been able to find, and I have scoured libraries and the internet for more years than I like to remember, looking for them. I think it is likely that they exist and that it is just a matter of time before it is verified.

    This is a direect quote from the excellent website of :

    “In 2001 the Texas legislature passed a state law mandating that all counties either regulate or ban “dangerous” wild animals. A list of species considered dangerous contains nearly all felines, with only a few species such as geoffroy’s cats, jungle cats and asian leopard cats not listed. Each county must develop a plan to administer a registration process that requires a permit fee, caging standards, $100,000 liability insurance and veterinary care requirements as outlined in the state law. Many counties have chosen to ban rather then fund a county registration requirement. This is an irresponsible way to manage a state wide problem. There are more tigers in Texas than there are left in the wild. The state needs much tougher legislation to prevent the breeding, selling and often the shooting of exotic cats in canned hunts. If you are a resident, type your zip code into any box on this page to see what legislation is pending in your state and make a difference now!”

    Texas has left loopholes that elephants can (quite literally) walk through in that state’s laws regulating exotics; they have left all regulation not covered by the weak existing USDA regulations up to individual counties. And Texas has been notorious for its private “hunting reserves” where people can pay a fee to shoot tame hand-fed animals for trophies. Things may be changing; recently Texas banned the “canned hunting” of some species such as bears and lions. But there are thousands of exotic cats living in the state, some in well-run, secure facilities, but many in roadside “zoos” and backyards.

    I’m not just picking on Texas; there are several other states with exotic animal laws as weak or even weaker than those in Texas. Many of those animals could survive in the wild in an area that has plenty of prey and plenty of cover. The American South is such an area.

  7. foukeflyer responds:

    In 1980, my ex-father-in-law swore to his grave that he saw a large black panther and two offspring by her side close to his rural home in Upshur County, Texas (near Kelsey). The sightings occurred right at sunset. I spoke to him the day after the sighting and he strongly defended that the cat was black and not a brownish cougar. To be honest, I don’t know what to think other than I believe he thought he was telling the truth.

  8. kittenz responds:

    I think it’s plausible that there are black or very dark-colored pumas. There are so many reliable people who have seen them over the centuries that there must be something behind the sightings.

    On the other hand the black panthers could be black leopards or jaguars escaped from captivity and now living wild, even breeding and raising young. Or the cats could be a species entirely unknown to science, or even possibly hybrids of pumas and black leopards or jaguars.

    That thought leads me to wonder: do the Native Americans have any stories or depictions of black big cats, or have the sightings of black animals only occurred since Europeans came to the Americas? I did some very cursory searches yesterday and did not find any Native American stories of black cats. I did not have time to do much searching online yesterday though. Does anyone have any information or reference material related to Native Americans and black big cats?

  9. squatchwatcher responds:

    Either escaped leopard or jaguar from a surrounding area or a black jaguar from Central America. I mean if they can travel all the way to Mexica, why not Texas? How far into Mexico are they known to travel?

  10. kittenz responds:

    Jaguars’ original range includes Texas but except for transients there have been none there for several decades.

  11. squatchwatcher responds:

    Are jaguars range as large as mountain lions? I think mountain lions range is something like 200 square miles.

  12. mystery_man responds:

    Kittenz- thanks for the info! Much appreciated.

  13. shartexas responds:

    I have relatives who recently saw a panther-size black cat running loose on their ranch in central Texas. I think reports of these sightings go back for years, in that area.

    It’s true this could be an “escapee” because there are lots of people in Texas who keep exotic animals for pets or for hunting purposes. Each county used to have its own rules, or no rules at all, so it’s not that unusual for people to own tigers and other imported cats. Some people secretly keep such animals, including federally protected species.

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