Today is Thursday, March 23, 2017

Coming soon, black panthers

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The bobcat / oscelot cross killed in Alabama.

They can't be far behind.
Quite some time ago, I reported that I was sure there were Mountain Lions in Tennessee.
Within a few weeks, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency had a couple confirmed sightings.
I said, they follow the river systems eastward and I still believe that.
In addition, I said, we probably had a population in the eastern mountains. I still hold with that.
Recently, one was reported to have been seen in the Mt. Juliet area.
And another report from Sumner County just came in.
Maybe the same animal? Possible, just as it is possible we will have or have had a bear wandering around the Wilson County area.
No reason we wouldn't.
What, if any, is the threat to humans?
The answer is, almost none. I say almost because if you do some wrong things, it can get dicey.
Neither bears nor mountain lions are particularly prone to attack a human. There are some exceptions.
An old animal, one whose teeth are about gone, is looking for an easy meal. They can become dependent upon human garbage and livestock.
That brings them in close proximity to humans and that increases the risk.
When a human encounters a bear or mountain lion, the single worst thing you can do is run.
A running human immediately becomes prey and you are not going to outrun either one.
Do not turn your back. Pick up anything you can find to use as a weapon and do not play dead.
Try to appear larger than you are and do not start screaming.
If you happen to be armed and decide to shoot one, you had better make darn sure you can prove self-defense.
It is illegal to shoot one unless in self-defense or defense of a domestic animal.
But rest assured, the risk of encountering either one, is next to zero in Wilson County.
Now, whenever there is a reported sighting of a cougar-panther-mountain lion-whatever you want to call them, it can't be long until someone starts reporting seeing a black one.
Each year, there are hundreds of such reports. Recently there was a rash of these reports from Louisiana. You never see a valid picture of one. Here is why.
Black panthers do not exist in North America. Never have. Can't.
The "Black Panther", are a melanistic phase of either a leopard or a jaguar or, more rarely, a bobcat.
Neither of those animals exist in North America. There have been rare, confirmed sightings of a jaguar, not a black one, in the arid border regions of Arizona.
That is rare and a black one many times more rare. The only black panthers in North America are either pets or circus animals. And even that is rare.
But someone will see one or has seen one. There might even be a picture.
Of all the pictures I know about, all have been proven to either be photo shopped or misidentified.
Many are actually house cats, black dogs or coyotes or in one case with which I am familiar, a bear.
I have spent over 60 years wandering around wild places, places where the big cats exist and are rather common.
I have seen exactly two mountain lions. One I saw in Wyoming and one in Canadian Rockies. I have seen their tracks in Iowa and Nebraska, two states with a confirmed small population.
They have been confirmed in Kentucky. And now, they have been confirmed here. But no black ones.
Please, if you think you saw a black panther, keep it to yourself. I think, Judge David Durham, sees them now and then from his deck overlooking Old Hickory.
However, I think that is as he nears the bottom of a bottle of South African grape juice.
In our backyards, often on a regular basis, we have coyotes, bobcats, foxes, raccoons and a variety of other wildlife. At some point, a mountain lion might walk through.
Most often, it will be at night when you should be in bed.
But if you encounter one, just use your head and don't run off screaming like a girl. Just start walking backwards very slowly but don't fall down.
Then, go inside.

Contact the author at jsloan1944@gmail.com

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