Panthers? Mountain Lions? Bobcats?: Dozens respond to reported sighting of Mississippi black panther with unofficial sightings of their own
Published 12:39 pm Friday, January 27, 2023
In the first reported sighting to a newspaper since 2019, a Bogue Chitto man ignited a flame illuminating tales of black panthers across the state this week. While the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks officially claims there has never been an official reported sighting, hundreds of people have chimed in to tell their stories.
One of the most recent stories was emailed to The Daily Leader from Richard Cotton in Saltillo. Cotton said a few years ago he was reclining on his porch when a figure moved in his vision. It was Labor Day weekend and he figured it was just a dog crossing US 45. He waited for the animal to emerge and it did.
“It had a long tail and it was moving east at a feline-type lope. It took me a moment to realize it was a mountain lion,” Cotton said. “I called the MDWFP and reached a guy there who was from Guntown. He looked atGoogle satellite and said there was habitat directly west and east of me. I called the Cougar Project in Minneapolis where I was put in touch with the director. She explained it was likely a mountain lion who had been pushed out of Texas or Arkansas by a dominant male. It had swam across the Mississippi River and was in search of habitat and females.”
Black-bears once roamed the landscape of Mississippi before European settlement and intense land management practices transformed their habitat. They have since returned to Mississippi in the last decade swimming across from Arkansas and Louisiana.
Perhaps a big cat could do the same.
Jaguars once roamed the swamps and bottomlands of Mississippi just like the bears did according to an article published by the Mississippi State Extension Service. Melanism is a rare mutation which makes an animal appear black. Bobcats, panthers and jaguars can have melanism.
One common story which popped up in response to the article was people hearing the sound of a screaming woman at night. Bobcats and other big cats such as panthers will make a shrieking sound. While it could very well be a house cat trying to find a mate, it could be a bobcat or other wildcat. Sharon Holder sent in a photo of a dark cat captured on a trail camera in 2022 which she claims they hear every night on her 250 acres of land in Bay Springs. “It will send chills down your spine,” she said.
Tracy Case claims to have heard bobcats in the Bogue Chitto area off of Lower Meadville Road and swore she would not go outside to feed her goats. “I know it is not a baby crying,” she said.
J Carrol Farmer said he had a farm connected to McCall Creek in West Lincoln County.
“My cousin and I saw a black panther! One night the panther was squalling (sic), hunting dogs would cower and not have anything to do with trailing it,” he said.
Justin Wallace said there was no such thing as a black panther in Mississippi and if it was a big cat, it was likely a jaguar who had wandered up to Lincoln County. Tate McCaffrey seemed a little skeptical of black panther sightings and stories due to the technology set to capture wildlife on hunting land across the state.
“There are only 23,671 cell cameras in the Bogue Chitto River Swamps, Hunters get pictures of them all the time 🙄🙄🙄.”
We might not ever know if panthers truly exist in Mississippi but they certainly exist in our community folklore. Look no further than Calling Panther Lake, the Brookhaven Academy Cougars and the Brookhaven High School Panthers and the hundreds of Facebook comments of people saying they have seen them or heard them.
Have you seen something strange in the woods? Email your story to email@example.com. We would love to share your story and maybe help find the first official black panther sighting.