In June 2008, a wave of excitement rippled across the Cashiers area when a photo of a panther made the email rounds.
We were told that “James Snipe” (I urge you not to go hunting with him) had hit the 260-pound cat with his car on US 64 west of Cashiers.
It wasn’t long before the whole thing was revealed as a hoax. In the months prior to June 2008, the same photo was identified in emails as a cougar killed in Arizona…Kentucky…Arkansas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan, Kansas, and Pennsylvania.
Regarding the Cashiers incarnation, Highlands resident Richard McConnell made a full confession to the Cashiers Chronicle, which had published the photo:
I am the guilty party. I took the article off the Internet and changed details to put it on US-64 West near our house there then sent it as a joke to a couple of friends in Highlands & Cashiers. I never dreamed they would think such an outlandish story was true. If such a cat was really in the area, for the many years it would have taken for him to reach this size, he would have been spotted long ago.
On the one hand, I was disappointed that we did not have a substantiated panther sighting in Jackson County. On the other hand, I was relieved that the rare feline had not been killed here.
Recently, a friend forwarded me a photograph of a panther in significantly better condition, dragging a deer through (supposedly) Rhea County, Tennessee, near Knoxville:
It didn’t take much searching to find other appearances of this photo, including a larger uncropped version of the same scene:
According to comments on a couple of hunting websites, the various emails that accompanied the picture placed the incident in:
Houston County, Georgia
Pinos Altos, New Mexico
Warren County, New Jersey
Batavia, New York
Clay County, Florida
Hope, North Dakota
Old Fort, North Carolina
Trumbull County, Ohio
North River, West Virginia
Santee, South Carolina
Franklin County, Pennsylvania
to name just a few
However, Chet Markgraf insisted:
That pic came off my ranch in south Texas. If you need more proof, I have the camera pics before and after in order. And also, me and a buddy found the deer head about six weeks after the kill. I have a number of pics that are at the same feeder location that are just as clear.
You can believe Chet.
Now and then, I receive comments from readers reporting their own close encounters with panthers. Many of these sightings are from the middle Tennessee area. While I am happy to receive these comments, I cannot vouch for any of them. Personally, I would like to believe panthers are still roaming the Southern Appalachians, but I am anxiously awaiting some convincing physical evidence to confirm their presence.
Until then, here’s what I’ve been told by readers of this blog. They can't ALL be mistaken.
About 20 years ago, when I was a little girl, there were black panther sightings near my home in Crossville, TN.
On November 14, 2007, my sister-in-law, who leaves close to me, heard the tell-tale scream of a panther just outside her window about 8 pm. Then, about 4 am, I was awakened by what sounded like dogs being attacked. They were yelping and sounded distressed. The following evening, I came home from work to find a beagle pup on my doorstep. I located his owner, and found that he had just brought home two pups the night before, which had escaped their pen. The second pup never returned. I am sure that it was taken by the panther my sister-in-law heard earlier that night.
November 25, 2007 7:50:00 PM EST
I was just watching a show on NatGeo about mythical creatures. I was shocked to see the black panther on the list, because my wife and I have seen one. We also live in Crossville, TN, which is weird because I noticed some one else from here posted on this topic.
The night we saw the big cat, we were inside when we heard something making a lot of noise in the garage. Our cat was going nuts, we went outside and saw this huge black cat standing in the road under a street light. It was about three feet tall and looked like it was eight or ten feet long. I was scared to death. It saw us and just turned and walked down the road and into the woods. We called TWRA Fish and Game, but they thought we were mistaken. There was no mistaking this thing, and I'll never forget the way it walked off down the road. The only picture I've seen that looked close to it was a picture of a Jaguar from South America.
I've heard people around here talk about these cats all my life, and I know for a fact that they are real.
My name is John Hall and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
December 12, 2007 11:24:00 PM EST
Two cats sighted in North Mississippi
I live in Booneville Mississippi and was working late one afternoon near a creek that runs through town here. I saw two big cats, one black and one a light brown or dirty white. They were as big as a large German Shephard dog with long tails. They looked just like the mountain lions you see on tv.
I only saw them that one afternoon and often looked for them in that area but never seen them again.
My name is jlesley at email@example.com
October 4, 2008 12:55:00 PM EDT
I am 50 and can say with all certainty there are Black Panthers in this country. I would like to know of any sightings no matter where they are. Jamie Maurer
December 11, 2008 7:26:00 PM EST
yes im from alabama and i see the panther quite regular...something doesnt seem quite right about it but im sure someone else out there has noticed certain unnatural about there sightings but if you have questions ore any other abnormal experiences with the "panther" then feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
December 19, 2008 12:39:00 AM EST
They all over middle and west TN. Some even in rural areas of metro Memphis and Nashville.
My son and I were camping Jan 07 in Shelby Forest in Millington TN (borders MS river) whe we heard one SCREAM about 30 ft from ourcampsite about 10 pm.
We were the only campers in the park and I was thankful for my sturdy camper!! Oh, the rangers said it was screech owl.
Uh...NO IT WASNT!!!
December 27, 2008 4:20:00 AM EST
Yesterday morning I was following a backhoe on the new part of wolf river Blvd. It was across the road from the dump and right past the wetland area. There is a plot of land for sale that has been built up. As I was travelling at a snails pace I was looking intently for deer commonly seen in the area. At first sight I thought I saw a black lab walking across this grassy plot. Having the time to get a good look I realized that is was a Cat by the way it walked and that its tail was much longer and had that cat like curl and swish. I got a good look at the head then and clearly saw the ears and profile. I know it was a black panther. The time was about five til ten in the morning on Friday.
It was really cool!
February 3, 2009 5:23:00 PM EST
About 10-12 years ago my husband and I were in Pigeon Forge, TN, staying at a motel high on a hill on the north side of Hwy 441. About 8 a.m. that sunny morning we saw something moving farther up the hill from our third floor window. It was definitely a cat. A really BIG cat. And solid black. It was very calm and walked up and looked down at all the development that was Pigeon Forge at that time. Then it turned and walked away. We looked down at our car -- where the camera was. When we asked hotel management about this they told us -- no way. Later we asked rangers from the Nat'l Forest about it and laughed and dismissed us as a couple of Georgia nuts! It was a black panther. I'll believe that to my grave. It was HUGE. I wish that camera hadn't been in the car.
February 8, 2009 9:59:00 PM EST
I totally agree with all you guys. I just moved back to SC from eastern TN. It was not an uncommon occurrence to hear stories of large cats and people crossing paths. It's just yesterday I 100% positively had the rare chance at catching a glimpse at a large black cat about 3-4ft body length w/out the tail walking across my neighbor's horse pasture. I got such a good look at it I sat there trying to dismiss what I had seen. I had convinced myself it was just an optical illusion and it was merely a house cat until a horse stood in the exact spot where I had seen the big cat and instantly I realized that the cat was as long as the distance from front to hind quarters of a full sized mare. Theres no getting out of this one. There is a large black cougar in the upstate of SC.
March 26, 2009 9:18:00 AM EDT
about 20 years ago when i was 13 we were having a party and we heard an awful scream like a woman, and at the time my family was renting a trailer about 200 yards from the house and after the scream we saw a black panther jump from a tree onto the top of the trailer.we lived on a farm and since then we have had calves missing and one of our dogs got scratched up bad.and latly about a month our so ago one of my parents dogs went missing.From:Jefferson County, Tennessee
June 29, 2009 10:05:00 PM EDT
In 1999, one evening in the spring I happened upon a mountain lion sized black cat at the head of the Big Dry Run finger of Watauga Lake. I had just left my lake place on Sugar Grove Church Road heading home at about 8:30pm. It was just getting dark. As I started around the curve at Big Dry Run Road and Dry Hill Road I saw Huge eyes on the right reflecting my trucks headlights. I slowed wondering if it could be a deer. When I reached within 30 feet of the animal, it looked as if a huge black hole sat on the shoulder. The animal reflected absolutely no light from my headlights except the eyes. The most unusual thing about the eyes was the wide space between them, much further apart than a dog or deer, and large. Within 4 or 5 seconds the animal stood and turned to jump off the road bank into the brush down by the lake. When I saw the shape of it with the huge long tail, I knew there was not doubt as to what it was. It had to be either a black cougar or black panther. Since that time I have read and been told of the possibility of the cat being actually a black jaguar. My email address is email@example.com
September 19, 2009 8:49:00 AM EDT
i live the southern alabama, and about 4 years ago me and a buddy of mine were riding our 4wheelers 2 go check my game camera for some deer pictures and when something caught our eyes up in a tree about 70ft up at first we thought it was a black bear but after getting closer we knew it was a black panther it was such a weird feeling of it watching us with his bright yellow eyes. if i were 2 guess i would say he was around 100lbs
October 9, 2009 3:45:00 PM EDT
I live in Lookout Mountain, TN, and on October 25, 2009, at 9:20 pm, I was letting my dogs out at the corner. My two year old suddenly froze and his hair went straight up in a way I'd never seen before. I looked down the street and there was a large, black creature about 6 feet long that leaped across the street, only touching it once. I didn't know much about them, but after researching I made 2 reports. I was still shaking from fear 3 hours later, and I'll never again feel safe walking the dogs at night.
November 1, 2009 11:26:00 PM EST
I am a fifty three year old female grandmother from upper state South Carolina. My daughter called and asked me to pick my granddaughter up from school one day in October of 2009. She attends Tigerville Elementary. The route between my home and the school is very rural and hilly. ON the way I spotted a huge black panther walking on out next to a small pond. I stopped my car an observed because I had never seen one. I told my friends and family and they told me I must be mistaken because no such creatures exist around here, but, I KNOW WHAT I SAW!
January 17, 2010 1:48:00 PM EST
A sincere thanks to all for these comments.
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