Saturday, January 13, 2007

Big Cat Sighting in Ohio

From the Wilmington News Journal:

"Amy Miller of Wilmington has had cats her whole life. She has four cats now. But she's never seen a feline in the open as large as the cat she believes she saw on Hickory Trail Drive in Wilmington this week.
"About 4:15 p.m. on a weekday earlier this week, Miller was driving to her parents' residence in Timber Glen off Truesdell Street (state Route 730) when she noticed something out of the corner of her eye as she neared her destination. It was walking down a wide path of grass that comes down through a woods, a route deer often travel in order to drink from a stormwater retention area nearby.
"Miller pulled into her parents' driveway and jumped out of her car while making sure not to shut the car door because she didn't want to scare the animal away. She said she stood and watched it slowly walk down into a ravine. So this sighting was not a mere glimpse, she said, although she acknowledged she was at a distance from the animal.
"'Here's what I told my mom. It was bigger than a goat, but it wasn't as big as a St. Bernard,' Miller said Friday when contacted.
"'It was not a house cat. It was seven house cats in one,' said Miller, who pretty much insists it was some member of the cat family. She believes it was a cat because of the way it was walking.
"'Not like it was hunting. Kind of like if you see a cat out in the field looking for a mouse. Kind of sneaking along. That's what he was doing,' she added.
"It had a yellowish color, Miller said. She didn't see any spots and it looked like it had a tail.
"'It was like the size of a very big dog. And it was not a dog,' she said. 'I know how cats act. It was walking like a cat. It was definitely not a dog,' she said."

Years ago, I once tracked reports of a large tawny cat as it was reported from south of Dayton traveling to points in southern Ohio (Highland County). It was reported from several different papers, yet not one reporter caught on that it was a string of related reports. I was able to backtrack the reports to an area where, "coincidentally," a law enforcement officer living in a county west of Dayton left town and his job, leaving behind a pet tiger for the authorities to deal with. He was reported to have owned a cougar, also, but that cat had disappeared, as well. Wouldn't surprise me to hear he had just released it. That would explain the almost straight-line trajectory of the wandering cougar, being unfamiliar terrain. I doubt this is the same cat being reported today, but it should be recognized there is a large trade in exotic pets in Ohio.


At 11:27 AM, Blogger garyg said...

We have spotted 2 large blaack cats in Lima, Ohio and they are confirmed as black panthers or cougars by ODNR and other experts. My neighbor shot and rolled the small one with a .38 but it continued onward. They have been spotted several times by several different people. One had an adult cat in its mouth. Also tore an ear off of a whitetail deer. I ahve pictures of tracks, but nothing on trail camera yet of actual animal. I saw one myself last Thursday and it is not a domestic or feral cat. It is 40-50 lbs,. and dark in color with long dark bushy tail. Any comments would be welcome. We are not seeing things here!

At 12:24 PM, Blogger Chad Arment said...

[We are not seeing things here!]

Well, here's the difficulty: whatever you are seeing, it isn't a cougar (which are not black, and do not have bushy tails). Given that there are hefty domestic cats that can reach the 40-lb mark, that's probably the best suspect. Too often, witnesses dismiss the possibility of a feral cat when other evidence (photographs, for example) clearly point to that. There was a case here in Pennsylvania noted in this blog a few weeks ago where the yellow feline was photographed, and very clearly shows a domestic cat, but the eyewitness still disagreed because it didn't fit what he thought a cat would look like.

Bobcats in Ohio are rare, and obviously don't have long tails, so they're not a good candidate for your reports. "Black panther" is a generic term, and does not refer to a single species of feline, so it isn't helpful from a scientific perspective. Any large black cat could be called a black panther. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a released exotic (black leopards are not uncommon in the pet trade), but we need to build a profile from the evidence up. For example, did you measure the tracks you photographed? How big were they? If you would like, go to the home page here (, find my email address at the bottom, and send me a scan of the footprints and I'll post it on the blog with whatever details you'd like to include.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger green eyes said...

I would like to see a follow-up to this mystery. We live in western Ross County with lots of fields, farm land & rolling hills. Who knows what all is out there or have traveled there from being let 'loose'.


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