International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

Black Panthers on the Prowl?!?

No, we are not celebrating April Fools Day here at the ISEC a few months late but there have been several articles posted lately about black panther sightings!  Black panthers are one of the most commonly reported “big cats” seen in the US.  Every year there are several accounts of individuals who swear they have seen large black cats prowling through their backyards.  If the individual is able to snap a photo of the cat, most have been easily dismissed as large domesticated or feral cats by experts using the size of the body in relation to other objects in the photos, such as grass or nearby structures.

First of all, panther is somewhat of a misnomer because although many think that panther is a species of wild cat, in reality panther refers to a dark, solid colored animal (and not a separate species). There are only a few species of wild cats that are of solid color.   Most wild cats have spots, rosettes or stripes.  One solid colored cat is the Puma.  The Puma (Puma concolor) has many names; cougars, mountain lions, cat-o-mount (cat of the mountain), the list goes on and on.  Most believe that Pumas are actually the black panthers commonly spotted in the United States because the only other large American cat is the Jaguar and it is very rare to see one this side of the border.  While there are melanistic Jaguars, seeing one in the United States seems highly unlikely.  While it is possible that in a certain light a buff or tawny colored cat, like the Puma, may look black, there has recently been another species of solid colored wild cat that may make more sense in light of black panther sightings, the Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguarondi).  

The Jaguarundi is a stretch too though because although the dark color of the Jaguarundi may look black in certain light, they only weigh on average about 22 pounds.  So where the Jaguarundi comes close in color, it misses the mark in size.

However, it is surprising the number of web posts on the Jaguarundi and Black Panthers. The bottom line is that people are fascinated with cats, especially wild ones that seem out of place or out of the ordinary.  Just for fun, google “jaguarundi black panthers” and see all of the information that comes up (true or not)!  Be sure to check the ISEC page on Jaguarundis and ISEC’s featured cat, the Puma, for accurate information on these species of wild cats.


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