Louisiana 02/02/11 beaumontenterprise.com: by Janet McConnaughey – Folks in the Plaquemines Parish hamlet of Phoenix are convinced there’s a black panther or cougar lurking in the woods and skulking up to snarf up dog food. A Plaquemines Parish deputy says he saw it. A state biologist thinks it’s most likely mistaken identity. The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office sent up a helicopter Tuesday to look for the critter, and Parish President Billy Nungesser e-mailed a message warning parish residents to watch out for a “large black undomesticated cat.” “The cat may be aggressive and people are recommended to avoid it, keep pets indoors, and call 911 if you see it,” he wrote.
Whatever it is, it hasn’t attacked anyone in this community of about 250 people 30 miles south of New Orleans. People have told the sheriff’s office it has eaten food put out for their dogs. It’s easy to mistake size at a quick glance, and details can get confused, said Maria Davidson, large carnivore program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. She said she often gets calls about possible cougar sightings. “People get very insulted when I suggest, ‘Do you think it could really be a domestic house cat?’ But I suggest that because it happens.” The house cat-serval crossbreeds called Savannah cats can get up to 35 pounds and occasionally are black, said breeder Judith Miller of Kaymankatz in North Olmstead, Ohio.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Cullum said he got cell phone photographs Tuesday of a big cat’s footprints. Davidson, sent copies by the parish animal control officer, said, “They are distinctly textbook canid” — a dog or coyote. Cullum said a big black cat leaped up from behind a log in front of him Saturday afternoon, when he went to check a report that dogs had treed such an animal. He showed up with his own share of skepticism. “We had been having reports of the cat. We weren’t sure if people were overexaggerating a wildcat or what,” he said. It wasn’t yet 3 p.m. when he went looking for it. “I walked through the woods and jumped it up from a dead tree. It was 12 feet in front of me. … I got a good look at it,” Cullum said.
He estimated Tuesday that it was about 4 feet from nose to rump, 6 feet long from nose to tailtip, 40 to 42 inches at the shoulder. That’s about the size of a cougar — an animal whose scientific name, Felis concolor, means “cat of a single color.” “Cougars don’t come in black,” said Davidson. “They are fawn, they are brown, they are tawny, whatever you want to call them. They are one color.” Cougars once were common across Louisiana. But Davidson said the last verified sighting of a cougar in southeast Louisiana was about eight years ago in a state park near St. Martinville, about 120 miles west of Phoenix. “When the calls begin with ‘it’s a black panther,’ then you automatically have to start deciphering things,” she said. She said the world’s six big cats include only two — jaguars and the black leopards known as panthers — that are ever solid black. Those are so wildly expensive that people are unlikely to have them as pets, she said.
Local lore has it that a man in neighboring St. Bernard Parish had a pair of panthers that he released into the swamp either just before or after Hurricane Katrina, said Maj. John Marie, spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “We haven’t verified it. But that’s the story all over Plaquemines and St. Bernard,” he said. He said bad weather interrupted Tuesday’s air and foot search, but it will resume once weather permits.
Ohio 02/02/11 mansfieldnewsjournal.com: by Dick Martin – [A recent article by Dick Martin published in the Mansfield News Journal] brought a disquieting e-mail from Ginnie Baker, who lives near Bellville. “Our coyote population is way out of control,” she said. “During deer season, my neighbors saw more coyotes than deer on their farm when they were out hunting. To date, I believe they have killed approximately nine coyotes. “We no longer see squirrels on our land. Several years ago, another neighbor lost several lambs to coyotes that dragged them under the fence. Approximately six weeks ago, the coyotes were very close to my home at night, howling. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. “We know there is a den on the neighbors property … they walk up and down the lane, some as big as very large German Shepherds! “We have an outdoor wood furnace and my partner cuts a lot of firewood. He was out a couple of months ago (broad daylight) and a coyote was very close, just watching him. He now carries a .22 with him when he cuts wood. Another neighbor had one sitting on their porch! Again, broad daylight. “They are getting too numerous and too bold.”
Correction 02/02/11: The image used with a January 28, 2011, post on this
blog was erroneous. It was not an image of Merial’s Raboral V-RG Rabies Vaccine Bait, which is being distributed by the Brownsville Health Department and the Texas Department of State Health Services in selected rural areas of southern Cameron County. The image posted on this blog entry has been corrected.