Black panthers are of interest to me not only because sightings of them are unusually persistent throughout North America, but I personally saw one while shooting an episode of Finding Bigfoot.
In the very early morning hours of November 25, 2012, the Finding Bigfoot crew was driving back to the hotel after a night investigation for the Illinois expedition. After a visit to Stan Courtney and doing numerous interviews, we headed out to a nearby river bottom where Stan told us vocalizations had been heard. We didn’t get any bigfoot action that night, though we tried late into the night.
After the quiet night, we had a long drive back to the hotel. Matt Moneymaker was driving the cast car, and I was riding shotgun. Bobo was in the back (I’m not sure if Ranae was with us in that vehicle or not). At some point in an otherwise featureless ride, I saw what I initially thought was a dark-colored German shepherd trotting towards the highway at the edge of our headlight beams off the right side of the road. As we drew closer, I saw that it wasn’t a dog at all, but a large cat. It had slightly rounded ears, a flatter face than a canine, a sleek body that was fairly low to the ground, and a long, flowing tail behind it. It wasn’t quite black, as I could see the tip of the tail and the tips of its ears were darker than the fur on the rest of the body. It was now well-illuminated, and it was clear that I was looking at a charcoal-colored mountain lion of some sort. The legs looked a bit shorter than other mountain lions I have seen, but that could have been due to the way it was trotting at the time.
The cat turned and moved parallel to the road in a shallow roadside ditch as we passed. I turned to Matt, who also saw it, and we compared notes on what we noticed. I got a better view of it because Matt was driving, but he saw it as well. Immediately, the walkie-talkies erupted as crew members in other cars started asking, “What was that?!”
Interestingly, these cryptids are reported from nearly everywhere I’ve ever looked for sasquatches. I’ve probably spoken to more than a hundred witnesses who have seen black panthers in the same habitat that sasquatches inhabit. They are well-known to the rural humans who share the land with these cats, but the government doesn’t officially accept their presence, just like bigfoots. I can understand why, and it’s not some sort of Illuminati-inspired conspiracy (though that would be a lot more fun than what I think is going on). I think it’s more a matter of management funds. If the States admitted that these cats (or regular cougars, for that matter) had a viable population in their on their land, they would be mandated to put together a management plan for them costing thousands and thousands of dollars. It’s easier to ignore them and let them manage themselves… like bigfoots.
What I saw can probably best be described as a melanistic mountain lion, but the photo above is a leopard (the spots are clearly visible). Bobo has told me about a sighting of a melanistic mountain lion he saw near Orick, CA years ago. I’ve heard of photographs of large black cats being taken, but have never seen one. I’m pretty happy I got to see one in the flesh, though I would trade it in a second for a bigfoot sighting of the same quality.