Black panthers before elections

September 21, 2012 

A black panther showed up at my house. I reported the incident on Twitter. Jake Tapper of ABC News declared, “Black Panthers Harass Conservative Pundit.” National Review’s Jonah Goldberg wondered why Eric Holder would send them since it wasn’t Election Day. They were having a laugh, as was I after I calmed down.

Wednesday morning at 7:15 a.m. I took our dog outside. She went nuts. She barked, she howled, the fur stood up on her back -- our dog does not do that even to other dogs. There in the tall grass in the gas easement behind our house was the largest black Labrador I had ever seen. It was watching us motionlessly from behind the tall grass.

The Lab, unlike my dog, was calm, so I decided I might have an easier time persuading it to move. That sucker stood right up and I came face to face with the biggest black cat I had ever seen. I realized it was no dog because the tail was the first thing I saw clearly. It was about three feet long and very tubular -- no tapering. Then its eyes made contact with mine. The dog and I ran back to the house as fast as the good Lord would carry us.

I turned around and like Batman, the dark cat had vanished. I went back up the hill, shaking, to see if I could see it again. There it was on the far edge of the gas easement. It really was a panther. It’s body was muscular and sleek. I told a reporter it was aerodynamic -- like a feline racing car. It’s tail was long and hung low. And then it disappeared into the forest.

The lady at the Bibb County Sheriff’s office nervously laughed when I told her a panther was in my yard. She told me to call the Department of Natural Resources. It was then I discovered I had come into contact with the zoological equivalent of a UFO.

The biologist I spoke to told me I saw either a house cat or a coyote because black panthers do not exist east of the Mississippi and cougars that come up from Florida are not black. If I wanted to get fur or a paw print, then they’d check it out. It was the largest house cat I’ve ever encountered or the only coyote I’ve ever seen without a snout. It was also an explanation for why all the deer have disappeared in our neighborhood along with a few pets.

Googling, I found a video of a guy in Alabama who actually caught a black panther on film. He was right up at the cat on the other side of a huge fence. He called Alabama’s wildlife folks. They told him panthers did not exist east of the Mississippi.

On Facebook, a lady in Wesleyan Woods let me know there’s been a panther sighting there. Folks from Houston, Monroe, Jones and Twiggs say the same -- including tracks. But no one seems to get a picture.

A friend who works in wildlife management tells me the official story is they don’t exist. They do it because the animals are in a constant state of travel, likely never to be seen in the same spot twice. If they confirmed the sighting you’d demand action when no action need be taken. The few that are found are officially classified as escapees from private captivity.

The panther is out there. Cue the X-Files theme song. I just hope I never see it again.

Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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