Panther Photographed in NY

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 21st, 2008

A Mystery Cat (i.e. mountain lion?) was spotted recently by a resident in Columbia County, New York and photographed! (Submitted photo.)

Remember, earlier a Cryptomundo correspondent had contacted us about a sighting in this area? It appears that was not an isolated case.

Reporter Michael Risinit has summarized the recent reports of the mountain lions that aren’t suppose to be in New York State:

As if they had seen a ghost, those who say they’ve glimpsed a mountain lion in the Hudson Valley must weather disbelievers. But knowing their feline apparitions are rooted in fur and blood leaves no room for self-doubt.

“I’m absolutely positive I spotted it. It just had this enormous head, and I definitely saw the tail. The tail is what did it for me,” said Diane Winne of Philipstown.

Winne, an English teacher at Tuxedo High School in Orange County, was describing what she thinks was a dead mountain lion recently on Route 6 near Harriman State Park. The tail is a telltale sign for researchers and mountain-lion aficionados: Long tail means mountain lion; short tail is bobcat or something else.

The news last month that a Patterson family spotted a possible mountain lion in their Somerset Drive yard spawned several other reports of mountain lions – also known as cougars, pumas, catamounts or panthers – from throughout the region. But state and federal wildlife authorities maintain the large cats don’t exist locally, except as escaped exotic pets. The wrangling over whether they do or don’t has probably gone on since the state’s last known wild cougar was killed in 1894.

“Part of me likes to hope that someplace in the Northeast, there’s a population of Eastern mountain lions. I’m romantically hopeful,” said Fred Koontz, executive director of Teatown Lake Reservation in Yorktown and a former mammals curator at the Bronx Zoo.

The accepted fact is that, except in Florida, there isn’t a population anywhere east of the Mississippi. At one time, they roamed from Michigan, eastern Canada and Maine south to South Carolina and west across Tennessee. A mountain lion shot and killed by police last spring in Chicago was traced back to animals from South Dakota. Like other experts, Koontz points out that if they called the Hudson Valley home, a few would become roadkill. In Florida, where some 80 to 100 panthers are thought to live, seven this year have been hit and killed by vehicles.

“A lot of very credible people claim that they’ve seen mountain lions,” he said. “The thing to me that’s strange is we haven’t found a dead one on the roads.”

Christine Belcher, who lives in Dutchess County, said she was driving near her home last month and had to stop her Honda CR-V to let three mountain lions cross Dover Furnace Road.

“It was like a momma and a couple of smaller ones with a long tail, a flat face and big ears,” she said, recalling the animals that were so close she could see their whiskers. “In my mind, I called it a mountain lion.”

As a college graduate, Belcher said, she went home and checked several Web sites, including National Geographic.

“I’m not a scientist, but it was definitely a mountain lion,” she said.

By the spring, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expects to release a review of the status of the Eastern cougar. The review, which began last year, is the first time the federal government has taken a collective look at the animal since placing it on the endangered list in 1982.

“There certainly have been cougars here in the East. Some people believe there is a residual population,” said Mark McCollough, the biologist heading the service’s review. “We can’t find any evidence of that.”

Once the review is published, he said, the cougar could be kept on the endangered species list or removed in recognition that it’s locally extinct. It’s also possible, he said, that some day Florida animals could be relocated elsewhere in the South to take advantage of more spacious habitat.

“They do seem to be coming back if you look at North America as a whole, including Florida, North Dakota, Texas,” McCollough said.

Nicole Rubin, the Patterson mother who said last month that she saw a mountain lion, said several neighbors reached out after seeing The Journal News article about her feline sighting and shared similar stories. John Prophet of Patterson, who lives a mile away from Rubin, said he saw a mountain lion – “big head, big body, long, long tail – in his yard about five years ago.

“I know what I saw. It was definitely a mountain lion,” Prophet said.

Winne, the teacher, said she notified the state park police about the carcass she saw later that October day, but nothing was found. The remains of a deer or a coyote, she said, would have been unwanted and still there.

“For the longest time, I wanted to put a sign there and say: ‘Call me if you saw what I saw,’ ” Winne said. “I’m telling you, I saw what I saw. I saw that tail.”Hudson Valley, New York Journal News

Thanks to Mike Moore for alerting me to a new development in this series.

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.

38 Responses to “Panther Photographed in NY”

  1. parker responds:

    A Cougar was sighted over the summer months in vicinity of Hoy Road Carlisle, PA 17013. First reported sighting by a contractor, second by a farmer who had been watching the cat all summer. Plaster casts were taken.

  2. Spinach Village responds:


    .. Im anxious to see what this “federal review” reveals… I think the arguing over whether or not there are residual populations in the east is almost over…

    If they are officially aknowledged then what happens next?

  3. Coast Wild responds:

    not much mystery there, that looks a lot like a mountain lion to me.
    i’ve had a close encounter with one out here on the B.C. central coast.
    very interesting that there showing up in NY though, i look forward to seeing more on this

  4. youcantryreachingme responds:

    No argument about it being a cat. What are the black bands, 1 – around the neck; 2 – across the lifted front paw?

  5. kittenz responds:

    Pumas have black or blackish markings on the inner upper side of their arms, and their underfur is usually dark, which can make the cats appear darker under some lighting circumstances, and can make shadows on the cat look like markings. In this photo, the “mark” on the lifted front paw appears to be a plant that is directly in front of the puma, and the “mark” on the neck looks like it’s a shadow.

    Who shot this photo? It looks very familiar. I have either seen this photo before, or one very similar. I hope the photo is legit. The eyewitness accounts sound believable.

  6. Sparky1959 responds:

    That photo is definitely a cougar/puma/moutain lion. Not a blobsquatch. If the location is identified I’m convinced. There are plenty of deer, wild turkeys, ducks and geese for them to eat.
    I doubt it is a risidual population that survived unnoticed for a century. I would expect these are animals expanding their range from the north, south or west and finding life pretty good in the east.

  7. Sergio responds:


    I am not so sure that the animal in the photo is a mountain lion.

    To me, it seems to favor female African lion; however, I can’t make out a tuft at the end of the tail.

    The head and paws seem large for a cougar, and the abdominal area seems a little more like an African lion female.

    It also looks like the animal has perhaps a chain around its leg (just above its left front paw) and a chain or collar around its neck.


    Cougars, here and here.

    African lions, here and here.

  8. pcs800 responds:

    Wow, great picture! Makes me leary about letting my dogs out in the yard. I live in Michigan and am surrounded by woods, last thing i need is to be watering the weeds at night and see one of those things.

  9. krvega responds:

    Re: youcantryreachingme

    The black band around the neck is a shadow.

    The black band around the leg is a stick. You can see it if you follow the “black band” to the ground.

  10. mystery_man responds:

    Wow, that is an incredible photo. It is as good in quality as many trail cam photos of other elusive animals that have been captured on film and accepted as what they are. The photo really leaves little doubt that what we are seeing is a mountain lion. It is definitely not a photo of a house cat.

    The evidence mounts for the Eastern mountain lions. I now am pondering what our own resident cat expert (although I know she will say that isn’t so) 🙂 , Kittenz says about this one.

  11. Dr. Galen responds:

    I don’t think the line on the paw is a stick- IMHO the paw looks swollen and is being carried like it’s injured. Snare? Tether? Suspicious in my book.

  12. coelacanth1938 responds:

    Yeah, it’s a mountain lion. I used to run a book shop next to a wildlife artist’s store, and this guy used to bring in live animals. I used to play with his mountain lions all the time, so I know the breed.

  13. Goodfoot responds:

    The “band” on the left front leg is just a stick… you can follow it all the way to the ground! And the “neck band” is just a crease where the head meets the neck.

    I’d say we have a Mountain Lion, or Eastern Cougar, although I have to say the tail looks a little skinny for one.

  14. Apache responds:

    Why does the print not mention the photo? I don’t believe these two stories belong together, according to the witness.

  15. Loren Coleman responds:

    The Journal News carried the eyewitness account and the photograph, with the caption that this was a “submitted photograph.”

    All stories are local, as they say in the media business, and if the local newspaper decided to place these two together, in time and space, they had a compelling reason to do so.

  16. cryptidsrus responds:

    Yep, pretty much definitely a mountain lion…
    Glad to see the felids make it back to places they disappeared from. Although I agree with pcs800—I would not want to see one of those critters in my backyard at night. I also am eager to see Kittenz respond to these. Also the conclusion reached by the board.

  17. koipond responds:

    Maybe I’m wrong here but is anyone else a little suspicious about this photo? Beyond it’s slightly odd shape, it reads incredibly ‘flat’ to me and the eye shine seems excessively bright.

    I could be wrong but it looks alot like a cutout to me.

  18. NatureBoy responds:

    “Dr Galen” beat me to it, it does look like it may have been caught in a snare or alike. The swelling appears to go right up to the “elbow”. Hard to be sure due to light shadow etc but that whole leg looks bigger than the other 3.
    1. I would not like to be the one trying to release the wire from his/her leg.
    2. If it is a snare, he/she would be very pi#%ed off.

    Is snaring a popular method of trapping in that area??

  19. Wiseman responds:

    I live in Mashteuiatsh (Quebec) and a little ago there was sightings of cougars in the back ”mountains” surrounding the Lac Saint-Jean.

    One more thing, all my professors in fauna and ecosystems are unanimous that there are cougars here.

    So why wouldn’t there be in USA as well (more deer).

  20. maslo63 responds:

    Sergio; that is not an African lion. It appears 100% cougar to me, it has the black tip on the tail (no tuft) and you can even make out the black vertical marks near the nose.
    As for the suspicions of there being a snare, its a branch. You can follow it to the ground and even the log it attaches to.

  21. jrenn responds:

    Hey, I’m not sure but I think I’ve seen that picture in a series with that particular cat stalking a deer. I believe it was a trail cam photo.

  22. jrenn responds:

    So I was looking around online. I may have been wrong, I found the picture but is a different cat. Still, I grew up in Northcentral PA, talk of panthers was fairly normal. I only hope its true.

  23. coelacanth1938 responds:

    The cat does look a little skinny to me. Wherever it comes from, it must be slim pickings.

  24. mike moore responds:

    Is there any proof that this photo was taken in N.Y.? If I took this picture I would video tape from the exact location to my car or the road to show evidence that it was taken in N.Y. Otherwise people could say it was taken in California or Canada and not believe it. I do believe that mountain lions exist in N.Y., but it is hard to believe that with all these testimonials to seeing mountain lions in N.Y. that no one has any undisputible photos of them. Every person I know that has a cell phone has a camera on it, and it literally takes a second to photograph with them. I also don’t know of to many people who don’t carry their phones with them all the time.

  25. DWA responds:

    If that’s not a mountain lion in that photo you have an even bigger scoop than if it is.

    The evidence mounts indeed.

  26. Ed W. responds:

    I saw a cougar about ten years ago in running along the road by a regional park about 20 miles from Pittsburgh. My first thought was “That deer sure is running funny.” because it seemed to be pulling itself across the ground more than running like a deer. As it got closer to the car, I could tell see that the “deer” had the long thick tale, and all of the other characteristics of a cougar. It was less than 20 yards from me at one point and there was no mistaking what it was. A few days later I asked somebody I saw in the yard of the house to the sighting I he had ever heard anything unusual in the area. He told me that he did, but even though I only live about 5 miles away myself I’ve never seen or heard anything to make me suspect that cougars may be in the area besides that one time. I never reported this to anybody and I’d be willing to bet that there are plenty of other people like me who’ve seen these things without reporting them. My guess is that they’re just passing through, but I have no doubt that from time to time, cougars are seen far outside of what is generally considered to be their range of habitation.

  27. kittenz responds:

    It’s definitely a puma; the facial markings leave no doubt. The photo is very clear. It looks like a subadult: note the faint spotting still apparent on its ventral regions & tail. A subadult would be more slender in all proportions than an adult, especially if it was a subadult female. It does seem odd that the cat does not appear to have a thicker, winter coat this late in the year.

    My only question is, was this the same cat that the eyewitnesses saw, or did the paper use a photo of some other puma, innocently enough perhaps, to illustrate what a puma looks like in a trailcam photo? Like Loren, though, I think that they must have had a good reason to publish this particular photo with this particular article. I just have the nagging feeling that I’ve seen this same photo before. I have an eidetic memory and I don’t often forget visual details and this photo looks so familiar. But I could be wrong.

    Or maybe this is a stock photo, and the paper used it because the photo that the eyewitness sent in was blurry or otherwise unusable. That does not seem very likely though.

  28. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- Exactly my thoughts. If someone is to say that this is not a photo of a mountain lion or that someone would go through all of the trouble to photoshop one that looks this real (and face it, this is a very good pic), then this is a stranger story than if it is an Eastern Puma.

    The photo is clearly of a mountain lion, it is as good a quality as I think anyone could ask for. Nothing to me points to a photo shop job here, and the eye-shine is not bright to the point of being a sign of this being fake as someone above mentioned. There is no evidence to me that this is anything other than what we are seeing; a mountain lion. Perhaps there are times where we have to look at a photo like this and say that maybe what we are seeing is exactly what it shows (an Eastern Puma) instead of trying to explain it away with unsubstantiated accusations of photoshopping, cutouts, or dishonesty about the location. If we are not willing to do that sometimes, then pretty much any photographic evidence presented, no matter how good, is doomed.

    If this photo is not the real deal, then I suspect it would be because of the reason Kittenz states, and that an unrelated photo was used, rather than a willful hoax. But I haven’t seen any evidence that this is the case, no one has brought forth anything along those lines. The evidence so far just says that what is in the photo is a mountain lion.

    Being critical is important, but come on give this photo a chance. Not every extraordinary photo is a result of some omnipotent hoaxer. If it is the same picture that is discussed in the article, and the location is legit, then it is probably the best piece of photographic evidence for the Eastern Puma that I have ever seen.

  29. DWA responds:

    mystery_man: I feel better already. 😀

    I know you to be pretty tough on evidence. And to be fair, you have to be. As I’ve said more than often enough here: evidence is just that. It can’t be proof until it passes a threshhold. Now, yes, science sets that threshhold on a case by case basis. But evidence is how they set it.

    A photo has almost never, by itself, been accepted as proof without copious additional evidence that science considers valid. My strongest argument for (gosh, here she is again) the Patterson film is: nothing’s been proposed in 40 years to make us think it isn’t a sasquatch. NOT: that film is proof. A photo – a film – could have been taken anywhere; I have to hold out, however remote, the possibility of a fake or a shot taken out of context. I have to take it on the word of the presenting authority that a photo was taken where it was. I’d want to know more if I were a scientist pronouncing on this.

    (Me personally? I don’t need to know more. But what clinches it for me doesn’t – and shouldn’t, really – clinch it for science. This is why “you must believe me” sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. No I don’t, unless your evidence convinces me.)

    Given everything else I have heard, however – and given my virtual certainty that that shot is a mountain lion, and my strong confidence that the shot was taken where claimed – I’m seeing something I’ve long suspected looking more and more like something that’s really happening.

  30. corrick responds:

    People, until a “chain of evidence” is firmly established it’s just a photo of a mountain lion, nothing more, nothing less.
    Not that I don’t think there are some mountain lions in the northeast and mid-atlantic states. But could they also be western mountain lions expanding territory or the classic escaped/abandoned pets?
    Question. Is there enough DNA documentation on record to differentiate an eastern mountain lion from a western one?

  31. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- Yes, I do want to know more on this photo, namely whether it was really taken where it is claimed to have been taken. It seems the only thing we have to go on is that the newspaper decided to print this photo with this story which as Loren states probably has a reason. Yet other than that, the location of the photo does not seem to be established.

    Other than that, it is unmistakably a photo of a mountain lion. There doesn’t need to be any chain of evidence to establish that, pumas are a known animal well documented by science. It is not as if we are using this photo to establish the existence of a completely new animal (like the sasquatch). What isn’t agreed upon or established is whether there is a population where this one was claimed to be.

    So the location is what is needed to be proven here, not if mountain lions exist (which is the big hurdle for sasquatch). If it can be ascertained the exact source of this photo and that it was taken where claimed, then it is very strong evidence for the Eastern mountain lion indeed.

    Right now, like corrick said (and as I said too actually,) it is just a clear picture of a mountain lion. But I do think this is potentially great evidence and that we should give it a chance. If the location is legit, then it will be really exciting.

  32. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- And you are right, I am very critical with evidence. I want to make sure that it is solid before resting any hypothesis on it. This is imperative in any scientific field.

    To me, the photo here is solid, but the chance remains it is not what it seems in terms of relevance to the sighting. I guess you could say that I am convinced that this is not a photoshopped picture and fairly convinced it is not an intentional hoax, and that the evidence suggests a photograph of a mountain lion, yet I’m not totally convinced that the photo was taken where it is claimed. That possibility still needs to be considered and that is what I’d like to see more information on in this case.

    Some others here including Kittenz (whose opinion I value) have claimed to have seen this photo before, which raises an eyebrow for me. If this is the case, then I’d be very curious to see if someone were to come forward with this photo in its original context.

    Until then, however, I think we have to consider that this photo could be something special. I won’t say it is absolutely legit until I know for sure, but it is very compelling.

  33. Alligator responds:

    Yup, that’s a cougar but I want to know where the photo was taken and who took it, etc. and then someone ought to be able to go to that spot and find that specific tree in the background.

    In November 1993 a cougar killed deer was verified in Keene Valley NY by DEC biologist Ed Reed.

    April 1997 in Quabbin Reservoir Massachusetts, scat found at a beaver kill tested for DNA turned out to be cougar.

    July 1995 Maine Fisheries and Wildlife verified a cougar by DNA at Cape Elizabeth.

    September 2000 tracks of a female with a kitten were verified by Maine wildlife biologists after a hunter reported seeing the pair.

    In the past few years there have been five officially confirmed sightings in New Brunswick and Quebec. Of course, there have been many unverified sightings throughout this region. So while I would want to see more details about this photo, the possibility of wild cougars in upstate New York is strong and I think growing each decade. Remember, cougars will haunt an area of 150 to 300 square miles. Tagged males have now been documented as traveling from 600 to nearly 900 miles seeking to establish new territories. They can move and spread much further than we originally believed.

  34. mystery_man responds:

    Alligator- I agree. I think the possibility of cougars in the area is very strong and their presence likely. A lot of very convincing evidence certainly points that way, and like you said, these animals can have large ranges and are known to expand outward into new territories. Considering the ecology and habitat of these Eastern areas, I can’t see any real reason why mountain lions could not successfully gain a foothold there. If there are populations of cougars in the area, I would not be that surprised at all.

  35. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Having now read most comments here, and all comments at the source article, I really don’t think that photo links in with the report of recent cougar sightings in NY. I don’t think it’s a cardboard cutout – the eyeshine level is normal. I don’t think it’s a stick in front of the paw (I see the stick you mean but I don’t think it aligns exactly with the mark on the paw). But more importantly, as commentators here – and at the source article – have said, if the photo links with the story, why didn’t the writer explain it? If it doesn’t, then why didn’t they put a caption explaining this is what a mountain lion looks like? Despite the comments, the editors haven’t responded.

    One thing to be said though – plenty of other people wrote in at the source article to say “I saw a big cat at xyz date, and abc location” etc.

  36. MrInspector responds:

    Now, that’s a cougar photo!

  37. northeast cryptid responds:

    I have seen a Mountain lion in N.E. Pa.-(18643 between Wilkes-barre/Scranton)—it’s been hanging around a 3 square mile area for about 4 years now. Several people have come to me with their sightings,but I have not been fortunate to run into it again since the initial sighting along with my father. No mistaking any other animal for a mountain lion…very distinct appearance.

  38. CalebKitson responds:

    It looks like it’s front paws are bound.

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