When I was a child, I saw one of the last Black Panthers, which actually were a Jaguar. I have seen Puma just recently, about 15 miles (as the crow flies) from where I live now. He was HUGE. He was crouched down, drinking, when we drove by, he looked up at me. No one else was watching out the windows. I had been looking for this Lion. I said “There is the Lion!!” and those on my side of the car got a glimps, also. I, and (another) Old Firend have heard them scream near the big downswirling sinkhole near her house. It is a terrible high pitched penitrating, cutting, ripping Scream, rather than a roar like an African Lion.——The Black Panther was suddenly in my Grandmother’s front yard, 8 or 9 miles north-east of Punta Gorda, Florida. My two little brothers, ages 1 and 3, and me, age 4 were on the long screened porch which is where we played when we were alone with her. She didn’t feel that she, a transplant from Fannin County, Georgia who was already in her 70s could watch us outside. Too many hazards, from Prairie Creek, filled with alligators, just beyond the clothesline, to the tiny pigmy rattlers that she could barely see, and the ever present sandspurs and briars, the horned cattle of an absentee rancher, that were always getting into the grove…..Grandmother, who did not ever learn to drive, was alone with us for days and weeks, and when we were older, for months. This was a house that Grandfather had built with hand tools. He planted an orange grove in the 9 acres of sand that surrounded this house. 30 or so years ago the Creek was dammed, and the opposit bank, a flood plane, is now permanently flooded. There are subdivisions and stores. But that day in 1954, it was only us.—–The Panther ran into the open grassy space in front of the house…..we all went silent and ducked down, but peeked up over the wooden bottom half of the porch, as the Panther cast its head back and forth, and twitched its long thick tail. She was panting, her sides heaving. Grandmother, made shushing sounds so that we would not speak and we watched. Looking back over her shoulder, she made a decision. The Panther ran around to the east of the house and the towards the river and the fishing path (and alligator slides) in denser growth by the river. Grandmother kept us shushed. A moment later two men, with unslung rifles, as well as more in scabbards, on hourseback rushed into the spot where only moments before the Panther had been. They yelled out to Grandmother to keep us is the house as there was a wild panther they were hunting, and had we seen it? Then Grandmother did something I never knew her to do before, or since, and I love her for it. SHE LIED. She said “No. We had seen no Cats. We had all been inside.” Those hunters could see the tracks, anyway, through the tall grass, and took off after the Wonderful bit of Beauty. Likely they wanted the fur. Or the thrill of hunting another preditor. Dunno. But Grandmother turned into a Human Being for me that day—–Granny.
26 panthers killed this year alone, 17 of which were vehicles on roads and highways driven by careless people.
The best estimate is that there are only around 100 Florida Panthers left.
At this rate they will pass into extinction within a few years and why not we are losing most of our natives to progress in Florida.
I keep trying to think of a way to get the human race to slow down and watch out of these beautiful creation gifts from our Creator then I am rudely brought back to reality, we the humans are killing ourselves just as fast as those endangered and soon we will be the endangered species.
Andrew McElwaine: Panthers on the verge of extinction