Cryptids of Kansas - Black Panthers
Posted by Flint Hills Paranormal on May 2, 2020
Cryptids of Kansas
Big Cats – Black Panthers:
Black Panthers have been a solid piece of small-town lore across the United States, and I can’t tell you how many of these stories I have heard of in Kansas over the years. The stories are so common that they have a term for them, “North America Black Panther” or NABP. The name black panther is confusing because there are no true “panthers” in the United States. This term comes from the Family name, Panthera, of which there are several, and the apparent black coloration (melanistic color) of the coat. They do exist in nature, just go to a zoo and you may see one of these beautiful creatures. There are many large cats in the world and a few candidates for what kind of cat this might be are: a Jaguar (Panthera onca), a Leopard (Panthera pardus), a Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi), a Mountain Lion (Panthera concolor), or the extinct American Lion (Panthera atrox).
What is generally called a “Blank Panther” is the melanistic (darker) coated form of the Jaguar, which lives in South America, but there have been sightings and a small population found in the Arizona, New Mexico and the Texas areas, even after being hunted almost to extinction. There are rumors of a breeding population in the Louisiana bayou area around Shreveport, as well. The Jaguar is a good candidate for the “Black Panther” sightings, because they are the right size (up to 6 ft. long and 340 lbs.); they can be born with a melanistic coat, which upon closer examination still shows the spots, but is a beautiful black color; and there are more melanistic Jaguars through natural breeding than in the other types of cats mentioned.
Leopards (3-5.4 ft. long and 82-184 lbs) are also commonly born with a melanistic coat, and on close inspection will have retained their spots, as well. They are generally found in China, Java, India and Ethiopia, so they are not found naturally anywhere close to Kansas. The adult male black leopards, understandably, are said to be very temperamental, due to the inbreeding among the black leopard populations.
The Jauarundi is a smaller version of a Jaguar that lives in central Argentina to the US-Mexico border and through Central and South America. This is a much smaller cat, at about 15 lbs and 2.3 ft. in length and has a distinctively smaller head. They can have a melanistic coat but are too small to be what most witnesses say is a very large, black cat.
To date, there has never been a black (melanistic) Mountain Lion anywhere in the United States. “These creatures are put on ‘cryptid status’ since there has never been a melanistic Puma, but there have been reports of glossy darker colored Pumas from Kansas to Eastern Nebraska”. Since a melanistic Mountain Lion (Puma) has never been found, it is unlikely that this is the dark, lurking beast so often seen.
Loren Coleman, states that there was an American Lion (Panthera atrox), that went extinct during the Pleistocene Era with fossil remains found all over the United States, “The atrox males may have had manes and the females sometimes, perhaps often, are black.” This American Lion was much larger than the African variety and were very fierce, so I hope none of these are still lurking around Kansas.
So we are left with what…..any of the above are long shots because they are not anywhere near Kansas. One can go to a zoo and see them, either a black Jaguar or Leopard, but unless they are released into the wild, they shouldn’t be here. So where are these stories coming from? Wildlife Biologists say that the photos taken of large black felines, turned out to be large housecats when compared to a tree or another object in the photograph. Other animals could also be confused as large cats, especially at dusk. But, again, what about the face to face encounters between Cryptid Cats (NABP’s) and the ordinary person?
In the 1960’s a young man was driving his car down a dirt road near Neodesha, when a large black cat, “the size of a cougar”, began running alongside of his car. When he spoke to other people about this, he was told many stories of large black cats living in the area. I had heard of a family of black cats living north of Emporia in the 80’s. A couple reports in 2018, that in the Brown and Doniphan County areas there were several reports of big black cat sightings, one that ran in front of their car. In 2014, there is a report of a huge, long-tailed cat, black in color causing much fear in a small town in Kansas. Jay Cooney, in 2004 said that around the Medicine Lodge area, they call these cats, “River Cats”, and KMBC, Kansas City, reports that on a black panther tried to attack a lady in her house in 2008, and was shot by the Sheriff. (Video link in Biography)
So what are all of these people seeing? Are these black cats figments of our imaginations, captive animals that have been released into the wild, bad photographic shots, misidentification of normal Kansas animals, or could they be real, flesh and blood cats that have been misplaced and found a home in our Kansas landscape? Many southern species, like the Armadillo (Dasypodidea), have taken up residence as far as north eastern Kansas over the past 10-15 years. In the past 20 years, the deer population has exploded in Kansas, potentially leading larger predators into our State. So, if you see a large black cat walking across a dirt road, please take a photo, check for tracks, put out a game camera, but please do not shoot it, they are protected. If there are families of these beautiful cats living in the more remote areas in Kansas, we will continue to hear about these sightings, but until we have positive proof of their existence, they will remain on the “cryptids” list in Kansas.
I have had many reports of these large "black cats" and will put up a map of the sightings that I have either found out about of have been reported to me. It seems the majority of black cat sightings are in the the eastern part of Kansas, especially in the south and south-east parts of the State. This would be understandable if you look at the habitat necessary to allow a large cat to survive. These big cats would need a plentiful food source, water and a wooded environment to be able to create populations. The eastern part and south eastern part of Kansas is perfect for large cats with the large population of white tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and other smaller animal populations, like racoons, opossums, etc. This part of Kansas is also hilly and in places, very densely wooded. Some of these areas are not heavily populated by people, so is perfect for large animals to live without being seen.
In north-east Kansas, There are several reports from Doniphan, Brown, Johnson and Shawnee Counties. One report is from a couple living in Johnson County, near Kansas City, Kansas. They reported to me that they have seen an adult and cub in that area on numerous occasions. I will be investigation this area very soon. Also, in Brown County a large black cat was seen jumping over a fence.
In the central-east part of Kansas, there are several reports in Lyon and Osage Counties.
These reports, again are generally sighting a large black cat along a road or from the lore of the area. I remember when I was younger, several stories of large black cats in different parts of Lyon County. One lady told me about an old barn just north of Emporia where an entire family of large black cats lived and had reproduced a couple of times. She said that they didn't bother the cattle, so they let them alone. They had moved on, I guess, by the time I was told this fascinating story.
South-central Kansas also, has had numerous reports of these black cats, Sedgwick and Kingman Counties have reported several cats sighted. The most sightings, it seems, though is in the south-eastern part of Kansas. This area adjoins Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas. The area is very wooded, hilly and not heavily populated. A perfect haunt for a big cat. There are numerous reports of these black cats seen in Allen, Woodson, Elk and Neosho Counties. One individual I spoke to in the Altoona area, had reported a female, cub, and possibly the male that were living around his old farm house. He had seen the female and cub on numerous occasions on the road and in his pasture on the farm. He had noticed a rank smell around the back door of the farm house and thought it might have been the male marking his territory. The cattle had not been harmed, so they were probably living on the large population of deer in that area. We lost touch, so I wasn't able to investigate, but I hope he remains safe and not eaten.
With so many reports from ordinary people, I am not sure what they are seeing. The descriptions of these animals are specific enough to rule out total misidentification. Could melanistic Jaguarundi's have moved into Kansas like other southern animals like the Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) and the wonderfully fun Jack Rabbit (Lepus californicus)? Global warming may bring many new creatures into areas where they could not have survived in the past. I hope we don't see Vampire Bats anytime soon.
If you see something strange or have any questions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or message me on our Facebook page.
Dr. Linda Clarke
The Ottawa Herald, “Ask Jodie: Black Panther Sightings Unconfirmed By State.” Jodie Garcia, February 18, 2016.
KMBC News, “Panther Shot, Killed After Attacking House.”, May 22, 2008.
City-Data.com, “The Mystery of Black Leopards in Kansas.” June 23, 2008.
Big Cat Rescue.org, “Black Panther Facts.”, February 11, 2015.
Bizarre Zoology Blogspot,com, “An Intriguing Report of a Black Panther in Kansas.”, Jay Cooney, January 29, 2014.
Wired.com, “American Lion, or Giant Jaguar? – In Search of Panthera atrox.” Brian Switek, 10-24-11.
Coleman, Loren and Clarke, Jerome, “Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature.” Fireside, New York, 1999.
Brad Steiger, “Real Monsters, Gruesome Critters, and Beasts from the Darkside.” Visible Ink Press, Cantom, MI, 2011.
Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren, “The Unidentified: Creatures of the Outer Edge.”, Anomalist Books, New York, 2006.