Joe Rogan is no stranger to controversy. He has now entered into one of the consistent controversies in the Wildlife world. He believes he saw a black panther outside his Texas home. Other people make the same claim. What is it people are actually seeing?
People all over the world report sightings of animals that either are not supposed to exist or are thought to have vanished from that locale. But black panthers in Texas?
Rogan showed video footage on Youtube of what he described as a “black panther” outside his Texas home. He said the cat was about 70 pounds and approached a neighbor and his dog before disappearing.
Evidently, Rogan is not alone. Texans have been seeing, or think they see big black cats for years. News accounts said that the experts were highly skeptical and some news reports said “black panthers” simply don’t exist and certainly not in Texas.
To peel this onion we have to begin with what a “panther” is. A panther is a generic term used for leopards, tigers and mountain lions. Technically, it applies only to leopards (Panthera pardus) and jaguars (Panthera onca). They are part of the panthera lineage. But terms like “Florida panthers” confuse the issue. Both jaguars and leopards can be melanistic. That is they appear black from most angles. Seen from certain angles the spots on the coats do exist and are visible. So black panthers do exist. There are no verified sightings of melanistic cougars (Puma concolor).
But in Texas?
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department responded with skepticism. Their argument is that people often overstate the size of the animal seen. They also are wary of perspective tricks – animals on camera footage can be made to seem bigger than they are. Or can seem bigger than they are due to the distance from the camera. Some of the experts quoted suggest that what Texans (not necessarily Rogan) are seeing could be a small as a jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagauaroundi). National Park Service (NPS) scientists in California have told me that people mistake bobcats (Lynx rufus) which weigh 30 pounds for mountain lions (up to 100 pounds.) The official position is that there are no panthers in Texas.
Scientists are reluctant to declare an animal exists in a locale without hard evidence. That can include droppings and . repeated photos from trail cameras. It can also include claw marks on trees. The remains of kills are a serious clue also. None of these exist in Texas.
However, Jaguars are present in Mexico. Jaguars are thought to be close to be moving back into Arizona. But Texas is hundreds of miles from Arizona. We have reported on animals out of place. We have also discussed efforts to find living Thylacines. Finally, we have discussed whether feral house cats are growing bigger in Australia.