Nearly 30 more people submit Mississippi panther sightings

Published 7:50 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Daniel Whiddon submitted these photos reported to have been taken near Purvis in Lamar County.

This past weekend, Magnolia State Live posted an article about reported panther sightings in Mississippi. Since then, there have been nearly 30 more people with panther stories and big cat photos from Sardis Lake in northern Mississippi to Pass Christian on the Gulf Coast. Reports were scattered all over the state, but the pattern of panther reports grouped together in a few certain areas was certainly intriguing.

Some of the reports were recent while others were from decades ago, recollections from childhood memories.

“I’ve lived in Mississippi since 1987,” Tera Houston wrote. “On this day around 2010, I was driving home (Poplarville- Pearl River County- Millard Community) from north Mississippi as my son had a baseball game earlier in the evening. The sun had set, and the only light was that of my head lamps. I was only a few miles from my exit – Millard Exit 19, I-59 – when I saw a large animal leap across the interstate, not exactly knowing at first what I witnessed, what stood out to me was its long tail and how it was used to balance its leap so perfectly. I was absolutely mesmerized as my headlamps caught this sight. Truly magnificent and jaw dropping to say the least. I couldn’t be 100 percent of its color other than dark in color. But I am 100 percent sure that it was a cougar or panther-type breed. It was so large, and that tail was Incredible. What I would give to have a picture of it!!”

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Another Pearl River County report came in from just up the interstate.

“Several years ago, my husband was out walking early one morning on Dupont-Harts Chapel Road in Poplarville near Juniper Creek,” Ruby Kennon reported. “He saw what he believed to be a dark colored panther or cougar with a long tail. He called and spoke to someone with the wildlife department and was told that there are no large cats in our area, although they suspected that someone in the Hattiesburg area had released a cougar into the wild and that my husband may have seen that one. They did give him the name of someone in Florida to share what he saw. He was told that all the panthers are in an area somewhere in Florida, although some male Panthers can travel about 200 miles from home. I remember years ago back in the 1950s, Daddy had us sit out on the back steps in the early evening so we could hear the scream of a panther and we did. It sounded sort of like a woman screaming. This was DuPont Harts Chapel Road also. We even got word from others during this time to be on guard because a panther had been sighted in our area. Juniper Creek runs back in the woods behind our house. It is undisturbed for the most part and I would not be surprised if there are still panthers/cougars roaming in that area.”

Teresa Lott has several examples of her and her family encountering the panthers.

“About 30 or 40 years ago, my sister-in-law and I heard a panther scream,” she reported. “We live in the Sunflower community (Perkinston address), Stone County. We were walking down an old dirt road toward Red Creek when we heard a woman like scream, but it was more animal than human. My sister-in-law said it was a panther because she had heard one before.

“About 50 years ago, my brother-in-law saw a black panther in Tuxachanie swamp in Stone County when he was a teenager.

“While walking from his house in Stone County to a main road for exercise, my dad knew something was stalking him on the edge of the woods. He finally caught a glimpse of a black panther. He walked a little further before turning around. The panther didn’t follow him.”

Sullivan’s Hollow in Smith County is a place of legends and folklore, and panther reports are certainly possible in such a unique place.

“One time my mother went out after dark to hang some clothes on the clothesline and she had me holding a flashlight so she could see,” Janice Norris wrote.  “Just then we heard the panther scream just like a woman in pain. It screamed about three times. We made it to our back porch and turned around and it was in our yard! We both saw it. Needless to say, we didn’t go out at night anymore, but we heard it screaming all the time. This was in Sullivan’s Hollow.”

“I was coming through Sunrise in Forrest County about dark 11 years ago,” Les Burcaw submitted. “Just passed where Sunrise school used to be when a reddish-brown animal ran in front of my truck. Thinking deer, I soon realized it was twice as long as a deer and had a long tail. Definitely was a big cat!”

“I too saw a panther in our neck of the woods in Duck Hill,” Gwen Baskin wrote. “It was more than 15 years ago. On the way home from work late one evening, an animal slowly crossed the dirt about two miles from home. It was in no hurry. At first, I thought it was a deer but I recognized its legs were too short, his torso and tail were too long to be a deer. His head was too thick and short. He had the color of a deer, brownish gray. I later mentioned it to my family, and they said they have had their own experiences.

“I saw a black panther two years ago on Headstart Lane in Amite County,” wrote Gwenith Fletcher. “In the afternoon of March 2020, I called wildlife but because of Covid-19 no one came out. I called police, same response. It was in the field across from my house. I thought it was a bear, it was so big. I reported it to my landlord at the time. He said he was aware of it and had chased it away. My neighbor down the road saw the black panther trying to get at her hunting dogs and flashed a spotlight, causing it to run away.”

“About four years ago, my grandson and I saw a big brown cat going down from my mom’s home towards the woods behind her house,” Diane Sanford wrote. “It was not a small cat, it was not a bobcat, it was a cougar or panther whatever you call it! I was shocked to see it. It did not act scared. It just kept on walking slowly on its way. We live in Covington County around the Collins/Seminary area, in the Mt. Horeb Church community.

“I grew up in the ‘50s, early ‘60s east of Coffeeville,” John L. Brassel wrote. “I heard the big cat that made a scream that sounded like a woman, several times. Once when I was about 20, I was jogging on a country road at sundown. I heard the scream about a hundred yards away and a few seconds later from about 20 yards. It made my hair stand on end. Several years later my brother-in-law saw one on Old Hwy. 7 between Coffeeville and Water Valley. He had finished the night shift at his work after midnight. The long black cat crossed the road in front of him and jumped up on a bank beside the highway and stopped. He stopped and they looked at each other for three or four minutes before the cat turned and walked away. He said it was black, long, slender, with a long tail. It was graceful and was able to leap up a six-foot bank with ease.”

Some people, such as Daniel Whiddon, submitted photos.

“I have photo proof one on my Dad’s land in Purvis,” he wrote.

“That picture was taken about two years ago during the summer,” Jennifer Duclos wrote as she described a photo. “My property runs off the natural gas pipeline in Foxworth, around Hwy. 35 South and Anderson canal road. I have four ponds on my property, so it’s a good water source for wild life. I know that they say no panthers in Mississippi, but when I showed neighbors pictures, some of the old timers told me that in the books in Columbia it has been documented about 75 -100 years ago these cats were brought here and let loose to help control the deer population at that time.”