East Bay’s Black Panthers

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 19th, 2009

If there is one person in the San Francisco area who had been, in years past, the lightning rod for mysterious black panthers cases in the East Bay, it was Gary Bogue.

Bogue was the curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, California, for twelve years and has been writing a daily column about pets and wildlife for the Contra Costa Times for thirty-seven years. I remember writing about him in the 1970s, for he was responsible for gathering reports of the Mt. Diablo sightings of alleged “black mountain lions.”

Bogue felt there might have been something to these reports, even collecting accounts of a black panther-type cat seen putting a kill in a tree back in the 1970s. Bogue theorized that perhaps a melanistic leopard was around, and responsible for some of the sightings.

Today, Bogue still writes his regular animals and pets column. It is not surprising that all the 2009 reports of black panthers would be on the minds of the residents of the East Bay, and thus Bogue’s audience.

Recall the recent mystery cat seen by Lynn Reed and his wife Kathleen was first viewed at about 6:30 p.m. on July 30 near Pleasanton, California. They said the cat was about 5 feet long and about 2 feet tall. Its head was “the size of cantaloupe” and Reed estimated it to weigh about 60 pounds.

“It was black,” Reed said. “It had no other markings.”

One of Bogue’s readers wrote in…

I was interested to read the story Aug. 13 about the sighting of what appeared to be a large black cat in the East Bay hills.

My husband often walks our dog in the hills of Black Diamond Regional Park. About a month ago, he told me that he had seen a large black animal at a distance, making its way down a hill across from the trail he was following. It was only in sight for a few minutes, and our dog didn’t seem to see or smell it.

His first reaction was that it looked like a bear, but of course he knew that couldn’t be right.

When he told me about it, I suggested that it might have been a wild boar, although we were not aware of boars frequenting the Black Diamond area….Cathy in Antioch

Columnist Gary Bogue responded:

Whenever you’re out hiking in local open spaces and you see a large dark animal in the distance that looks like a bear, it’s probably a wild pig.

A lot of wild pigs are on Mount Diablo and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if one strayed into the Black Diamond Regional Park area.

Source: Gary Bogue, August 18, 2009.

For further reading, Mysterious America details the “black panthers” of Mt. Diablo (named after the Devil, of course) in the East Bay and at other California locations. The comprehensive listing of sightings was Cryptomundo-published too, here.

There was a booklet that appeared in 1972, which talked about the “Black Mountain Lion of Devil’s Hole,” often seen in Las Trampas Regional Park.

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 “East Bay’s Black Panthers”

  1. ebonycrow responds:

    There is one record of a black mountain lion, though it is my belief it was probably a puma/jaguar hybrid (it had a light underbelly and was reportedly “more gray than black”). Maybe it was a melanistic puma, who knows.

    Though I have noticed, for some reason, nearly everyone is adamant about saying melanistic pumas are impossible. I say poppycock. However! The majority of black cat sightings are easy enough to explain now a days as nothing more than a melanistic jaguar, especially in the area of Cali, that’s close enough to their current documented range in Arizona I don’t know why it would confuse anyone. Besides, if nearly every other cat species has been documented as producing a melanistic offspring at some point in time, why can’t the puma…?

    Big cats have big territories, and even pumas can travel up to 25 miles a day, with a 500sq mile territory to just one cat. Mind boggling, that no one seems to be able to appreciate the great scale that these cats can travel!

    ABCs, I think, are one of my favorite subjects. We get a lot of them here in KY, and I’ve made a habit of recording them since my aunt saw one in the soybean field behind her house. It was one of two things: A black puma, or a melanstic jaguar (wild or a pet). In the past, around the 1700s, jaguars had a range as far north as Tennessee and Virginia, some reports today claim they are currently as far north as Georgia.

    Imo, the only mystery here is why people have to make it a mystery in the first place.

  2. cryptidsrus responds:

    You make a very valid, topical, and intelligent point, Ebonycrow.

  3. Munnin responds:

    Ebony Crow wrote:
    “The majority of black cat sightings are easy enough to explain now a days as nothing more than a melanistic jaguar, especially in the area of Cali, that’s close enough to their current documented range in Arizona”

    According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, “Today, the northern-most known population of jaguars is centered about 140 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border, in Sonora. Any jaguars that occur in the AZ-NM/Mexico borderlands almost certainly belong to that population.”

    Pleasanton, CA., just east of the San Francisco Bay, appears to be hundreds of miles North and West of even the northern-most part of this current, documented range of Jaguars in North America.

  4. ebonycrow responds:

    Too bad this article says otherwise. That article, also, is only one of many that support a jaguar population in the south western US. But again I restate, it is pathetic how many people truly understand the roaming ability of large cats such as the jaguar and puma. A cat who does not have a territory, currently seeking or simply a loner, can roam up to 25 miles a day in search of an area they can claim, or simply in scouting.

    Jaguars are native to the US (again I restate, as far north as Georgia in the east during the 1700s), for what reason do we have to think that they’re not still here in part? Or even, working their way back? For fun, the southern jaguars in Arizona appeared two years ago (who knows, maybe they were there long before that, but we only caught them on camera during 2007). What’s 25 miles a day and a couple of cubs since then?

    In addition, I’ve stopped trusting Game and Wildlife officials. I’ve found sufficient evidence of mountain lions throughout the state of Kentucky, but regardless of what I collect “they’re not here and never will be”. I can understand if they’re protecting the animals from poaching (this could even be the same case with jaguars), but if they’re just being ignorant then that’s just stupidity on their part. Hope that gives you an idea of my feelings toward the Game and Wildlife Department, as far as what information you can get out of them.

  5. ebonycrow responds:

    At any rate, if it isn’t a wild jaguar or a melanstic puma (which additionally, if you asked Game and Wildlife, does not exist) then it is an escaped pet. Given that all of the other explanations are “impossible”, where is the mystery…?

  6. Munnin responds:

    “Too bad this article says otherwise. ”

    Thanks for posting the link to the LA times article, Ebonycrow. After reading it though, I don’t understand what you mean. Near as I can tell, it documents a Jaguar found southwest of Tuscon. That’s well within the range mentioned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and well south of the northernmost part of that current, documented range. Tuscon is even farther away from Pleasanton than that northern part I mentioned before.

    There is no question that large cats have a very big range, and I think that there may well be mountain lions inhabiting or traveling through areas where, officially, there aren’t supposed to be any.

    However, I still maintain that Pleasanton, California is way too far from contemporary jaguar habitat for a melanistic jaguar to be a likely or obvious candidate for the recent sighting there.
    I do not say it is impossible, but the fact is that Pleasanton is just nowhere near the state of Arizona. Pleasanton is situated at about the same latitude as southern Virgina, quite a ways north of Georgia. California is a big state. We’ve got about 840 miles of coastline here.

  7. bauctrian1970 responds:

    I’ve seen a number of cougars in that area. Never a black one however.
    Are we sure they are not seeing ring tailed cats? They move like cougars.
    I never saw one in my life, except the last 3 months…I’ve seen 4.

  8. ebonycrow responds:

    I also said that was *one* of many links indicating jaguars in Arizona and surrounding areas. My idea was to point you, or anyone, in the direction of more articles containing more evidence of a significant population. Of course they can wander “out of the range”, but once a jaguar moves on past that 140 mile marker, they’re not going back. This is home now, and they should–technically speaking–now be considered apart of the American population.

    Based on this article, the collar jaguar was known in the area for more than thirteen years previous of the 2007 photograph. Thirteen years in southern Arizona with little or no detection whatsoever? “…two independent sightings in 1996 confirmed that jaguars still used Arizona and New Mexico as part of the northern most extent of its range.”

    Thirteen years living on American soil, sounds like a citizen to me!

    Jaguars, being well camouflaged and primarily active during the hours of dawn/dusk, probably aren’t going to be seen by anyone and everyone. Imo, if there are jaguars out there, surely 80-90% of them who are seen by individuals are going to be melanistic. Good lord, surely more than that, knowing just how observant the human specie is.

    Regardless though, Pleasanton is close enough that within two years (or thirteen) a jaguar could easily make the journey if there was reason for it to. With habitat loss from people people and wildfires, jaguars are still threatened in this part of the world. It sounds like they’re moving up, and have been for a long time (if you consider the sighting in southern Arizona in 1996 a long time ago).

    But I repeat. If two of the only three possibilities are “nearest impossible as can be”, why is everyone in such a tizzy? Someone’s missing poor Fluffy and I’m sure Fluffy is missing his evening meals, too. Someone set out a can of tuna, he wants to go home.

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