Mississippi’s only cougars are escaped pets

No physical evidence of panthers in Mississippi

Daily Journal
12/16/2006 8:55:31 PM

For Larry Castle, the question is legendary: Do panthers roam the countryside of Mississippi?

“It’s a common call we field,” said Castle, director of wildlife for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “We have looked at numerous videos. There are an untold number of photos. There have been countless examinations.”

So the bottom line is “No.”

“There is no physical evidence that panthers have been spotted in Mississippi,” he said, “with one exception – escaped pets.”

A North Mississippi resident found a big, furry surprise one morning when a Florida panther was draped across the hood of his car when he walked out on his driveway. But the animal had escaped from a Tennessee residence.

Castle said the evidence of Mississippi panthers is akin to finding Bigfoot on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

“We approach most reports with a certain amount of skepticism,” he said. “The first fallacy is that most people believe the panthers are black. If we have them here, they would be the tawny-brown type.”

So when investigators look into reports of black panthers that stand about 6 inches tall, “those are kitty cats,” Castle said.

“With the number of game cameras that we have all over the state and the thousands and thousands of photos that they have taken, we would have expected to see one,” he said. “We did get one photo that was supposed to be a black panther, but we could tell that someone had doctored the photo.”

Those residents who believe they have seen a panther or his tracks, however, should place buckets over the tracks to preserve them, Castle said.

“And we would suggest that they contact Richard Rummel at the Mississippi Museum of Natural History,” he said.

Rummel, a wildlife specialist at the museum, can be reached at (601) 354-7010.



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