Friday, 29 April 2011

Town hunts for black panther preying on livestock

Joleen Chaney
Reporting KFOR
5:47 p.m. CDT, April 26, 2011

POCASSET, Okla. -- Some Oklahomans are on the hunt for what they are calling a black panther or mountain lion that has been spotted near several homes.

The creature has been reportedly seen near Pocasset in rural Grady County.

"It was about half grown, had a tail about 4 feet long and it was solid black," witness Russell Dahl said.

It has become quite the talk of the town after a few recent run-ins with people, including Dahl's neighbor who had an encounter while on an evening jog.

"It liked to scare her to death," he said.

The animal is said to have been roaming the area for decades.

Dahl said he questioned the creature's existence when his son described his sighting, but he quickly became a believer.

"I said, 'You saw a coyote.' Well, the next day I saw it and it wasn't no coyote," he said.

Officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Wildlife say they've had a definite increase in the number of calls they've gotten from people who say they've seen big cats after a mountain lion was captured in Tulsa over the weekend.

"Sometimes I think they might be seeing a bobcat, maybe even coyotes, once in a while dogs," Game Warden Ron Comer said. "You can't always believe what your eyes are telling you."

The latest sightings in this rural little town haven't only given the locals a bit of a scare, but some say the cats have gone after their cattle and pets.

Whatever it is, experts say it could be one of a number of different animals.

"I never try to tell anybody that they didn't see what they thought they saw, but the melanistic gene does not exist in the mountain lion or the pumas or panthers or whatever you want to call the north American big cat," Comer said.

The melanistic gene increases an animals dark pigmentation, turning the animal black.

Within the past few years, new laws have allowed people to kill mountain lions or big cats if they feel threatened.

However, now there is no open season to hunt the animals and it is illegal to do so.

As for the cat caught in Tulsa, wildlife officials believe it was a caged pet that somehow escaped from someone who was not licensed to have it.,0,7227827.story

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