2020/03/25

The Other Black Panther

Black Panther

A reader of yesterday's cryptid post responded with a comment that blew my sighting out of the water:
I've heard and seen one of the anomalous big cats during one of my excursions to visit family in Missouri, but I don't think it was any sort of phantom.
They do have mountain lions out there. Another case of the officials have said, until recently, that they were all hunted to extinction out there 100+ years ago but hunters have known they're still about the entire time. Recently the various rangers have acknowledged a "small population moving back in".
It started with hearing it yelling at night for about 45 minutes to an hour, just off the front porch of the cabin. Stayed out of the porch lights so I didn't see it then. My uncle came by the next day to mow the lawn and field. I told him about hearing a mountain lion just outside the house, and he had his smug "I'm going to screw with Ral" smirk when he asked me to describe it. I think he thought I was spooked by a bobcat or raccoons fighting. I know what both of those sound like. I told him it was like a normal mountain lion scream (sounds like a woman being murdered. Normal cougar scream is spooky on its own), but half an octave higher and warbled at the end of the call. He got serious quick,said "That's the black one. It's more aggressive and bigger than a normal cougar" gave me one of his 30-06 deer rifles from his truck, and had me sit overwatch while he mowed the lawn only. He told us to avoid going out at night, and to be armed when we did go out.
I actually saw it a couple nights later. I'd gone to town to visit other family and hit the grocery for my cousin and grandma and was getting back around 10pm-ish. There's one part in that gavel road that comes around a hairpin turn and immediately funnels into a one-lane bridge across a small creek. There's a ridge on the right with a house on top. The trees on the left open up into a cattle field just as you complete the turn. There's a half-collapsed barn from the late 1800's that makes a big dark spot in the night on the other side of the creek, inside the cattle enclosure.
I went whipping around that turn at about 40mph (should do it at 10-15, but, well, teenager at the time). Cat was in the road, facing into the field, but my brain initially registered it as the barn. I ended up screeching to a halt a couple inches from it. It jumped around on me, blinked in the headlights, and then smacked the crap out of my bumper and ran off up the ridge via the creek bed. Fortunately just scratched the chrome trim parts and some paint that could be fixed (this was an old GMC Jimmy)
From it's markings it was definitely a mountain lion, but black. Like how jaguars have really dark grey with black markings; but mountain lion countershading in dark greys and super dark 'eyeliner' and eartips. It was about 10% bigger than a normal mountain lion and was mega-ripped. Like you can normally tell they're powerful, but they have somewhat loose skin. This was buff enough it looked like it was ripped on steroids and wearing spandex.
Looking over after it'd run off, I saw it'd been pulling a dead cow across the enclosure fence. When I went back the next day to tell the farmer, we went to inspect the cow. Young bull (like old teenager equivalent), nose damage and throat ripped out, neck broken...big cats like to hold the mouth/nose shut and rip out the windpipe to suffocate large prey, as opposed to canids, which like to rip out the leg tendons then go for the throat once the animal is down. Still hanging half-over the fence, which was sagging and needed to be fixed by that point.
It got me looking into the topic, and they seem to show up every 10-20 years and be seen in geographic clusters for about 2-5 years then disappear. Just speculation, but I think it's a genetic condition causing the black fur, and it also induces a hormone condition that makes it muscular and mean. Then either from being too aggressive where it gets itself injured to death, or the condition causing complications like heart failure, it dies fairly young.
I'm no wildlife expert, but the reader's theory comes across as logically sound. If nothing else, it makes for good reading.

Speaking of which, all you old school print book lovers will be glad to know that the Corona-chan anthology is now available in paperback!

Corona-chan: Spreading the Love

7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. This reminds me of Bob Gymlan's video about the black cat sightings in the UK: https://youtu.be/GHUAdi247r0?t=173

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  3. I don't know if this is relevant, but I have seen what i think are colour-other genetics ties in housecats. We lived on a farm and the lineage of cats there were such that ginger cats were INVARIABLY male. This held for my entire childhood into late teens. There was one exception, and she couldn't produce a viable litter.

    So, if that anecdote is data, there is some basis for thinking masculinization and colouration can be linked in some feline lineages or landraces.

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    1. That's a fascinating connection I never would've considered. Perhaps you've found an important key to the mystery.

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  4. In the early nineties, I raised sheep for my FFA project. One year we had a wether lamb with muscles like a horse. I mean, he was ripped come show season. Problem was, he was crazy. Nuts. Bats. I could hold him and set him up, but anybody touches his back or leg (which the judge would do in the ring), and he would bounce around like a drunk Plastic Man. And drag me with him. I had spent hours with him in practice, and he just didn't like anybody else.

    After the first show, we traded him back to the man we bought him from. He took the thing to a sale in Texas where it was eyes only. There the wether set a record for dollars per pound that stood for years.

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