By Matthew Price
(Created: Monday, March 19, 2007 5:48 PM CDT)
Reports of coyotes and bobcat sightings in North Texas have surprised many residents, but many still have no idea that this area is home to a few mountain lions, and possibly even black panthers.
There has been a confirmed mountain lion sighting in Collin County within the past year," said Trevor Tanner, a wildlife biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. "Our native big cat in Texas is a mountain lion, not a panther. There is a difference in the species."
Tanner, unaware of direct evidence confirming the presence of black panthers in Collin County, did say, "I'm not saying it's entirely impossible seeing as how there have been people who kept black panthers as pets in the past, and someone could have possibly released one, so I'm not saying it's impossible."
The town of Gunter website, www.guntertexas.com, lists possible sightings of a black panther in Grayson County, Texas. Some skeptics attribute such sightings to mountain lions with darker coats. Black panthers are considerably larger than mountain lions and not native to the area.
Mountain lions on the other hand are one of the most widespread mammals in North America. The large predator is capable of jumping 45 horizontal feet and can weigh over 150 pounds. Tanner estimated the range of individual mountain lions to be around 40 to 100 miles with variation depending upon availability of basic resources.
Advice on reacting to a mountain lion encounter varies. Park officials often recommend making oneself appear large and to yell and even throw sticks to deter the animal.
Tanner suggested that the proper reaction depends on the situation. "Typically your best bet is not to run so as to avoid presenting yourself as a prey species."
Reports of attacks on humans are extremely rare. The best thing a person can do to avoid confrontation with a potentially dangerous animal is to avoid contact. Feeding or nurturing such wild animals is a bad idea and is a major cause of unsafe conditions with animals.