Alabama "lion" sightings

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Babble Mouth
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Alabama "lion" sightings

Postby Emily » Sat Aug 30, 2014 12:02 pm ... _resp.html

There hasn't been a confirmed sighting of a Florida panther in Alabama since late 1948, according to Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Alabama residents frequently report seeing 'big cats' in the state, but state experts say they are likely seeing overgrown housecats, bobcats or coyotes. (Wikipedia)
Erin Edgemon |
Erin Edgemon | By Erin Edgemon |
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on August 27, 2014 at 3:37 PM, updated August 27, 2014 at 9:06 PM

About 20 years ago while fishing in Gulf State Park, former Gulf Shores Zoo director Troy Peterson says he saw a young cougar come down to the water and drink about 50 yards from his boat.

Peterson said he was so sure it was a cougar that he called to make sure the zoo's three cougars were still in their enclosures.

"For about three weeks following that, the Gulf Shores police continued to get reports around the Gulf Shores golf course of a large cat," he said.

An report published Tuesday created a quite a debate on the existence of big cats in Alabama as state wildlife officials say there hasn't been any documented evidence of panthers in the state since the late 1940s.

More than 800 readers responded to a poll asking if they have ever seen a panther or mountain lion in the wild in Alabama, 49.46 percent said they have. Another 50.5 percent of respondents indicated they haven't seen one.

Dozens of readers claim to have seen a big cat in the wild while hunting or driving down a country road, but no one was able to provide verified proof of the animal.

An image shared recently on the Leeds/Moody area events Facebook claiming to be of a panther in the area actually turned out to be an image that was taken in Michigan. Another picture of a black jaguar shared on a Mountain Lion sightings Facebook page for St. Clair County originated from Africa.

Several readers who commented claimed state officials are lying and don't want to admit big cats are in Alabama because they don't want to fear residents. They also guess since the Florida panther is an endangered species that documenting the animals would mean more money and work for the state.

"We have no reason to conceal that type of information," Keith Gauldin, assistant chief of wildlife for Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, said. "There is no advantage to us to say we don't have them.

"Show me the valid proof that it exists and I will believe you," he added.

He said many people see what they want to see.

Gauldin spends a lot of time researching and following up on calls and emails he receives about big cat sightings, he said. He can't take an image at face value because all of the images his office has received are faked, from out of state or from another continent.

For example, Gauldin said he get calls about animals being hit on the highway with residents swearing they stopped to look at the carcass and it was a black bear.

When he goes out to investigate, most every time what he gets see is a black trash bag, pigs or various breeds of dogs.

Many people also claim to see black panthers. Gauldin said these don't exist. Only jaguars and leopards can have a black coat. Jaguars have been documented in south Texas, but they live in Central and South America. Leopards are found in Africa.

Here is a sampling of reader stories:

Cynthia Almodovar submitted an image of a bobcat she says was taken by a neighbor who lives on High Mountain near downtown Huntsville. The cat has been around their neighborhood for the last four to five years.
Wendell Stewart submitted an image of a mountain lion he says was captured on a game camera just south of Talladega. Gauldin said this photo is a reversed image of the picture taken from a game camera in Michigan.
In about 2004, when living in the Brownville community of Conecuh County Paul Thompson says he saw a big, reddish brown cat with a long tail that came down to the ground and curved back up. "It was sitting when we first saw it like as if it was eating. We decided to approach it and it stood up and ran off. I used to be a trapper in my younger days and a hunter all my life, what I or we saw was not a bobcat or deer. We went over to where we saw the animal and he was indeed eating, there was a jack rabbit on the ground his head chewed off. So to folks that don't believe we have panthers, I am a believer that we do."
Carl Sutton claims he saw a mountain lion/Florida panther in Cullman County on July 20. "I was driving and I started slowing down because I saw what I thought a dog (retriever sized) running down a driveway and about to cross the road at 440 County Road 1339," he said. "As it bolted across the road and came in full view we saw that it was (what we thought) a mountain lion. It continued across the road over an unpaved logging road entrance. After seeing a picture of a Florida panther later in the day we thought it might be that instead of a mountain lion."
janethhinton wrote: About 6 or 7 years ago, on the outskirts of Ozark, AL, in Dale County (SE Alabama) my next door neighbor saw a black panther. I didn't see it but heard it cry in the woods beside my house. My cat wouldn't go out until the next day but sat by the window looking toward the woods. My veterinarian said he had heard of sightings in the area, too. BTW, the creek behind my house is called Panther Creek. Also, about 30 years ago, I saw a tan one walking beside the Eastern Bypass in Montgomery, near the road to Wetumpka, one afternoon.
Rogue Elephant wrote: I saw a jaguarundi on a back road near the Houston/Geneva County line about 10 years ago. I was stopped at an intersection and happened to look up in my rearview mirror because a crow was raisin' hell and swooped down behind me. About that time, a big cat loped across the road. It had a flat face and was about the color of a chocolate Labrador retriever and it definitely wasn't a bobcat because the tail was as long as the body. When I told some huntin' buddies about it, they said it was probably a jaguarundi, because other folks have apparently seen them too.

Updated at 5:05 p.m. with additional information from Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

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