Gay Schlittler Storms' North Texas Tales column from the April 10 2005 edition of "The Graham Leader"
Panthers were scary in 1863
Sunday, April 10, 2005 - Frightening stories about mountain lions have circulated since the frontier saw its first settler.
There have been only four reported mountain lion attacks of people in Texas in more than 100 years, one of them fatal. All the reported attacks occurred in Big Bend National Park.
But that's not to say there have not been sightings of mountain lions in Young, Palo Pinto, Throckmorton and outlying counties. Old-timers talk about being startled by a panther in an abandoned barn or in one of the caves now at the bottom of Possum Kingdom Lake.
Surprisingly enough, there were no recorded casualties from mountain lions before 1900. But there were close calls, and some of those encounters were recorded.
William Veale taught a little school in Miller's Valley on the Clear Fork of the Brazos in 1863. One day Phin Reynolds' brother brought a panther's foot home from school and told how he got his prize.'
Reynolds' brother and some school children were at the river eating their lunch . One little girl was on a shoal, leaning over washing her hands. The girl looked around and saw a half-grown panther, crouched and ready to spring. She practically flew out of the water in one bound, but her jump was no match for the panther's split-second spring. The cougar landed squarely on her back and pinned down its prey.
The other children saved the day by attacking the cat. A brave older boy named Press Mauldin grabbed a rock and knocked the panther off the girl into the water.
The panther surprised everyone by jumping back to the river bank where the children were. The cat pounced on another school boy, Tom Curtis, who had leaned over to wash his slate and was oblivious to the previous attack. Mauldin hit the scrawny panther with a deadly blow, knocking him off Curtis and killing the cat.
When the children examined the panther, they saw that its ribs were showing, and it looked sick. That's why the cat had been so bold.
Ten years after this episode, another mountain lion attacked a child at the home of John Selman. The door was open to the outside, and the Selman's baby was in a cradle opposite the doorway. A mountain lion sprang through the open doorway on top the cradle, grabbed the baby in its jaws and carried it away from the cradle.
Webb, a neighbor who was visiting, grabbed the panther by the tail. Mrs. Selman snatched the baby away while Webb continued to pull on the cat's tail. Webb flung the panther into the fireplace. The cat sprang back into the open room toward the door where everyone hoped it was fleeing. Instead, the panther ran for a bed and crawled under it. The men retrieved loaded rifles from over the fireplace and killed the panther where it crouched.
This story was published in 1872 in the Saturday Evening Post. Reynolds said, 'We knew all of the parties and heard all of the details before it was published by The Post.'
To be honest, there are many more newspaper and magazine stories of mountain lion attacks today than there were of big-cat attacks in frontier Texas. One newsletter warned that 'more cat attacks have occurred in the last 10 years, than in the previous 100-year period (in the U.S.).' Biologists and wildlife organizations such as Texas Parks and Wildlife instruct hikers on dealing with a hungry mountain lion.
But unless one falls into an exceptionally unlucky ratio of probability, one is many more times likely to step on a rattlesnake or get bitten by a black widow spider. That's a little comfort, at least they can't run faster.
(Source: Phin W. Reynolds,'Chapters from the Frontier Life of Phin W. Reynolds,' compiled J.R. Webb, 'West Texas Historical Association Year Book' (1945), reprinted in forttours.com)
Other panther sighting stories.
Fort Worth Democrat;
"The panther at the Keg Saloon scalped another man yesterday evening."
GRAPEVINE/COLLEYVILLE - That black panther seen roaming around northeast Tarrant County is really getting around. The panther showed up in Argyle last Sunday [Aug 30 1998] , and now a woman in Fort Worth says she saw the big cat. The woman says she spotted the panther roaming on Marine Creek Parkway as she drove to work Thursday morning [Sept 3 1998]. Police and animal control officers spent the morning searching for the black panther, but never found anything. If they do find it, officers plan to tranquilize the cat and take it to a safe area.
GRAPEVINE/COLLEYVILLE - Animal control officers say they may be on the lookout for two panthers. A panther and possibly a cub are somewhere in the Grapevine/Colleyville area.
Robert Clements spotted the black panther Monday morning. It was near a culvert, a few feet from the playground at Ashmore Park in Colleyville. Clements says, 'He looked like somebody's house cat. But it was big, had a long tail, probably 30 inches long. Pretty cat.'
Clements only saw one panther, but animal control officers say, according to their tracking expert, there may also be a cub. Colleyville Animal Control Official Debbie Wallis says, 'He found tracks, double set of tracks. We have no confirmed sighting of the baby other than we know there's tracks.' And if there's a cub, Wallis says, 'There's no such thing as Immaculate Conception so there's gotta be a male cat out there somewhere, if there's a baby.'
Star-Telegram - September - 2004
Officials warn residents of mountain lion sighting
FLOWER MOUND -- Authorities are warning area residents to be aware of a mountain lion recently spotted near Farm Road 2499 and Pecan Drive, reports show.
Mountain lions are native to the area and sightings have been reported around Grapevine Lake for more than a decade, according to a release issued Tuesday by Christina Howard, Flower Mound's animal services supervisor. Sightings are rare because of the high level of residential and commercial development, officials said.
If you see a mountain lion, do not approach the lion; do not run; try to look as big as possible; keep children in sight and close to you; back away slowly, keeping eye contact; and fight back if attacked.
Lions are generally calm, quiet, and elusive, and attacks on humans are rare, the release stated.
Panthers in Keller
"I had a friend give me your site. In Early November, I saw a Panther here in Keller. I live in a place that has lots of trees and about 15 acres behind me, I was out on my back porch at about 11:45 A.m and I saw a Panther.....I know it WAS NOT a big dog...cats slink...walk out of a stand of trees and lay down...lick it's paws and get up again. It's head was huge! I called Animal Control...they treated me like a Dumb Blonde...told me Panthers were not "indiginous" to Texas......told me it was probably a 40 pound housecat..HELLO! This was more like 140 pounds.....Acted like I was crazy! Then, a friend sent me TONS of articles about Panthers in Keller! I know what I saw.....a huge black cat...not a housecat...and when I told my husband..he said he had seen big tracks just 2 days before...and wondered what the heck! It was so refreshing to see that maybe..just maybe..I wasnt crazy! I called my neighbor and guess what? Her 2 show dogs were going nuts just about the time I saw the Panther go into her yard!"
"The funny thing is...I had my digital camera right in my kitchen..but I couldn't stop staring at the Panther to even think to go get it! My mind was baffled! It was very calm and not in a hurry. It was amazing! I live on Woodland Trail....off of Rapp Road and Shady Lane. I just was so frustrated that Animal Control acted like that. I know they dont want a panic, but he could have at least informed me that there had been sitings in Keller. Everybody I told believed me except him!
Just wanted to share my story! Thank You!"
Laura B., Keller Texas!
Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Black cougar sightings have Waco neighborhood on alert
By TOMMY WITHERSPOONtwitherspoon@wacotrib.com
Waco police and animal control officers have set traps in northwest Waco following reports of black mountain lions roaming the Landon Branch neighborhood.
Two women — Julie and her daughter, Sarah — are among those who have kept Waco police and animal control officers aware of their sightings since claiming they first saw the family of four black mountain lions near Park Lake and Mac-Arthur drives around September.
The mother and daughter say city officials told them not to reveal their last names or addresses, for fear that hunters with high-powered rifles or animal rights groups trying to protect the cats may encroach on their property.
Animal control officers set out traps for the reclusive, elusive animals a few months ago but did not catch them or confirm their presence in the area, Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said. A few residents also installed motion-sensing cameras on their properties but did not snap an image of a black mountain lion, Swanton said.
Residents of the area say it is not uncommon to see gray foxes, bobcats and coyotes in the area, living in the cover of a wooded ravine that runs through the stretch along MacArthur and Lake Shore drives and down to Lake Waco.
Sarah, 33, said she saw one of the younger cougars cross MacArthur between Sturgis Lane and Canyon Drive as recently as Tuesday night.
“I didn’t see the mother, but the animal control officer said if you see the baby, the mother is not too far away,” she said.
Swanton oversees the city’s animal control officers and is aware of the reports, but he remains skeptical about their accuracy, at least until confirming the reports.
Sarah and Julie are sure about what they saw and are sure that whatever large animal mauled their two house cats last year was not an ordinary cat.
They took the wounded animals to the Northside Animal Hospital on MacArthur Drive and the late Dr. Jerry Stewart confirmed that whatever attacked their cats was not “domesticated,” Julie said.
Cora Bickly, of China Spring, also is sure about what she saw. She snapped a dark, blurry picture of what she said was a black cougar in August near Childress Creek on Farm-to-Market Road 2490.
Like Julie and Sarah, she described it as big and black, with lime green eyes and a long tail. This big cat had a baby with her, which hid in the woods as Bickly took the picture.
“I know they are out there. I have seen them. Trust me, mine are very confirmed,” Bickly said.
After her experience, Bickly said she and her husband sat on their back deck for a while with deer rifles just in case the big cats came around the house and spooked their horses.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website, there are no black panthers in North America and no one has ever captured or killed a black mountain lion, which also are called cougars, pumas and panthers. Most are a light, tawny brown color with long tails, not to be confused with bobcats, which are smaller and have bobbed tails.
Mountain lions are “relatively uncommon, secretive” animals that live mostly solitary lives except when breeding, the website says.
Sightings and kill reports indicate mountain lions now live in more counties than they did 10 years ago and appear to be expanding their range into Central Texas. A mountain lion can have a roaming range of from 80 miles to 200 miles, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials.
Swanton said city officials set out traps baited with fish guts in the Landon Branch area after Julie reported seeing the big black cats. They caught nothing.
Swanton said animal control officials are not discounting the reports. But with no confirmation, officers say it is more likely that the night-time sightings were bobcats or very, very large tomcats, Swanton said.
Still, the city advises residents to take proper cautions around their homes, like not leaving out their pets or pet food that might attract “critters of all kinds,” Swanton said.
Sarah and Julie say they have mauled pets and large paw prints around their home and on their back porch sliding glass door to prove that they have seen the big cats.
“The animal control officer put his hand up next to the paw print on the glass door and it was almost as big as his hand,” Julie said. “He said, ‘That is one big kitty.’ ”
Sarah said the older of the two baby black cougars is the size of a grown German Shepherd and the smaller one is about the size of a collie. The larger baby has white back feet, while the younger one has a white stripe inside its back leg.
The adults are as tall as the back bumper on her 2006 Ford Mustang, she said, because she came out early one morning and saw one standing there while her cat cowered beneath the car.
Jim Fleshman, director of the Cameron Park Zoo, said most mountain lions have brown fur, but it is possible that there are those with a color mutation known as black melanistic.
He said he is not sure why the city used fish guts as bait to try to catch the big cats. A live chicken that would make noise to attract the cats would have been more effective, he said.
“I have heard about mountain lions in this area,” Fleshman said. “That doesn’t surprise me at all. It would be fairly common. They are so secretive, so it doesn’t surprise me that the sightings were at night.”