A Newton County deputy shot and killed what experts believe to have been a domesticated black panther Monday outside of Neosho as it tried to batter its way into a woman’s home.
Sheriff’s deputy Cpl. Donn Hall, who was not available for comment Tuesday, responded to a 9-1-1 call from a resident at 9555 Orchid Drive, southwest of Neosho, who told dispatchers a panther was trying to get in her back door.
“Most of the time when you get a call like that you’re like ‘Ok, whatever'” said Capt. Richard Leavens, patrol supervisor with the sheriff’s department.
But when Hall arrived at the residence just after 6 a.m., he was met by the reported panther, which began running toward him. According to Leavens, Hall grabbed his service 12-gauge shotgun and pumped two shells into the attacking animal. Initially deterred, the panther retreated down the driveway, but then turned back and came at Hall again. He had time to squeeze off his last shotgun round and then drew his Glock .45 service pistol and emptied the clip into the cat, which dropped it.
“You’re shooting at something about the size of a pie-plate (the panther’s head) and then the adrenaline dumps on you,” Leavens noted. “He didn’t do too bad.”
The resident, who was not identified, later told officers that she had been outside when the panther ran at her. She screamed and took off for her house. The cat would have overtaken her if her dogs hadn’t jumped in to fight the animal off. It bought her the time she needed to reach her door and call the police. To her horror, the panther — who had brushed the dogs aside — then tried to break its way through the door to get at her.
Hall arrived shortly thereafter. The dogs weren’t injured in the fight.
The panther, meanwhile, was later weighed in at 60 pounds and measured roughly three feet. Leavens said agents from the Department of Conservation were called in to examine the corpse and said the cat, a male, wasn’t a fully matured adult. Interestingly, it had been de-clawed, indicating someone had owned it as a pet.
“Or at least they were keepers, I don’t know who would want to have a ‘pet’ like that,” Leavens said.
While exotic animals are legal to keep in Missouri, it requires a permit, which is kept on file at the county sheriff’s department. Leavens said the only such permit in Newton County is for — oddly enough — a Bengal Tiger. He said the department had not been notified of anyone in the area reporting a missing panther.
However, considering the cat’s range can be considerable, sometimes more than 100 miles from its home, Leavens said it might not have originated from very close-by.
Meanwhile, Hall was given the carcass of the animal and is having it stuffed at a Joplin taxidermist, Leavens said.
“Well, he will to have something to show his grandkids as proof,” he joked.