Black Panthers in Illinois

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 22nd, 2006

Kitty Kitty

Black panthers in Illinois are not merely melanistic jaguars far from home.

I grew up in central Illinois (1947-1965, 1969-1974) and went to undergraduate school at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (1965-1969). I was out searching for black panthers when I was 14, for example, in Macon County, doing field work on big mystery cat sightings in southeast Illinois when I was 16, and slushing through swamps in southern Illinois more than I was in some classes during my college years at SIU.

Needless to say, all those first few years, I wasn’t writing too much about what I was doing, because I was busy just “doing cryptozoology” out in the field, so to speak.

I feel lucky to be able to recall those days fondly, and now I am able to honor others by writing about how new, younger researchers are out there doing similar things in the same fields. It is good to know, for example, that someone else is still seeking answers to all the reports of the big black cats in southern Illinois.

The Harrisburg Daily Register notes that Virgil Smith is just such a man. He told the paper:

“A lot of people in localities of Saline, Hardin, Gallatin and Williamson counties are reporting cats,” Smith said.

He said many reports are of large, dark cougar-variety cats. He is receiving reports and forwarding the information given to him to government officials, he said. Most sightings are from hunters and outdoorsmen who he said request anonymity from the media.

“We are getting some reports of livestock being killed and cats in trees,” Smith said.

“Anyone with photographs, we would like to get a copy of the photographs.”

Smith reassured folks that he is an independent investigator who uses motion sensing cameras, night vision, and has a live trap. He goes on to make some observations, saying there seems to be:

…a large cat that regularly walks a route from Illinois Route 13 east of Harrisburg to south of Jim Hayes Inc., across Muddy, across Illinois Route 34 near the double bridges, to the back side of Galatia Mine, to the outside edge of Harrisburg Lake and back.

He also believes there is a cat that walks in the area of the Eagle Mountains and Williams Hill.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. 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. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

8 Responses to “Black Panthers in Illinois”

  1. fuzzy responds:

    “Smith reassured folks that he is an independent investigator who uses motion sensing cameras, night vision, and has a live trap.”

    Virgil Smith, this is your big chance to make a name for yourself in Cryptozoology – you’ve got the gear and the youthful energy and enthusiasm, and you’ve analyzed your target’s routine.

    Now, focus EVERYTHING on that “Route 13, Jim Hayes, Muddy, Route 34, double bridges, Galatia Mine, Harrisburg Lake area – mount the cameras, bait the trap, and wait.

    And wait…

    And wait…

    Patience and persistence rule.

    Good Luck in the New Year, Virgil!

  2. sadisticgreen responds:

    I’m with Fuzzy. Great news to hear that Mr Smith is so eager and obviously well prepared. Even better news is the LIVE trap. If only the wildlife services could take a leaf out of Virgils book! Good luck dude and I look forward to hearing you name more in the future!


    p.s. Don’t worry yourself Loren, I’m sure white pants were cool once upon a time!!

  3. mbw responds:

    “Black panthers in Illinois are not merely melanistic jaguars far from home”

    So, are they escapee pet leopards or odd sized jagarundi? And what does “cougar-variety” cats mean when discussing melanistic animals of the panthera genus.


  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Mystery Black Panthers found in Illinois, of course, are cryptids, truly unknowns.

    There are no verified records of melanistic cougars/pumas any where in the United States, Mexico, or Canada, despite decades of reports of “Black Panthers” all over eastern North America.

    The only large cat that has a black phrase and comes into the US, across the Mexican border into the SW, is the jaguar.

  5. bf looker responds:

    Good luck in trapping one of these cats. The South Central area of Illinois is well known for it’s great deer hunting. This goes right along with big cats reported in the area. The cats are were the food is.

    The Park’s & Wildlife folks in my part of the world (central texas) have a hard time admitting that there are big cats here. Your research and capture may (hopefully) bring more attention to these beautiful animals. Good Luck!!

  6. Rillo777 responds:

    Good, solid reports of the black cats go back at least 150 years according to my records and probably before that. But in all that time no one has caught or killed one and I only know of one instance where a cub from a possible black cat was found in Indiana. Although it was examined by three different veterinarians its species (or even if it was a feline at all) couldn’t be ascertained. I’m always hopeful but these things are seemingly far more elusive than normal animals should be.

  7. kittenz responds:

    Researchers recently used catnip to entice wild jaguars to a camera and it worked where animal bait failed. Maybe catnip could be used to attract these mystery cats as well. Or valerian… cats go nuts for valerian.

  8. gregysbeingbad responds:

    I was raised in Southern Illinois, about 5 miles from Carbondale on South 51. I was about 12 years old at the time staying with my Grandparents while both my parents worked. I went Unity Point School. I spent hours upon hours of my free time in the woods behind Unity Point School. I loved wading in the creek listening for animals while I was in the woods. I wasn’t very big I remember being in those woods one day and seeing a BLACK PANTHER! I saw it as sure as i’m alive now. What I saw that day made an impression on me for the rest of my life! I saw a BLACK PANTHER, there was no spots it, it was as black as the night. I watched it walking so slow. Like it was trying not to make a sound. It must have heard me because it turned and looked straight into my eyes! It was a little over 2 feet tall and a tail that curled over it’s body. The tail was maybe another 2 foot in the air. The tail waving back and forth over it’s body. I’ll never forget. It must have weighed 150 pounds! It was big, no way could it have been mistaken for a domestic cat! I wanted to run but I couldn’t. I stood still and just watched it. I saw it again a couple other times. I remember my Grandfather having a tatoo of a Black Panther on his arm, what I saw looked the same. I told my Grandfather and he just smiled at me. I don’t guess any of them believed what I saw? But I remember seeing that big cat as if it was yesterday. I don’t understand why it didn’t come after me? It never made a move toward me though. I’m 52 years old today, but I know for a fact there are BLACK PANTHERS in Southern Illinois! I know because I have seen one that I will never forget till I die! I still think about it! I saw it and I know they are real and here in Southern Illinois.

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