LDWF warns of panther hoaxes in Louisiana - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

LDWF warns of panther hoaxes in Louisiana

Posted: Updated:
The LDWF says a picture of a black leopard has been circulating throughout northwest Louisiana with the claim that it came from a local game camera, when it's actually a photo of a black leopard living in captivity in Africa. (Source: Kevin Richardson) The LDWF says a picture of a black leopard has been circulating throughout northwest Louisiana with the claim that it came from a local game camera, when it's actually a photo of a black leopard living in captivity in Africa. (Source: Kevin Richardson)

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is warning that recent claims on social media about black panther sightings in northwest Louisiana are not true.

In a statement released Tuesday, the LDWF says get dozens of reported sightings every year of large cats, both tan and black. When investigated, they say almost all of these claims turn out to be more common species such as house cats, bobcats, otters, dogs, or even feral hogs.

"But my buddy has a picture on his game camera!"
For the past two weeks, the LDWF says a picture of a black leopard has been circulating throughout northwest Louisiana with the claim that it came from a local game camera. This stirred local interest among those who believed it was the evidence needed to prove the existence of black panthers in Louisiana. Unfortunately, this identical picture was also posted on wildlife forums and Facebook in Tennessee on Nov. 8, North Carolina on Oct. 22, and Georgia on Oct. 1.

The LDWF says the picture actually originated in Africa.

A similar picture of a mountain lion, supposedly taken in Louisiana, has been circulating through southern Louisiana. That picture originated in Minnesota, according to LDWF. What does this all mean? "Be a skeptic and don't believe everything you see on social media," says the LDWF.

"But cougars exist in the United States!"
While the mountain lion/cougar/panther is native to the United States, Louisiana does not have a population of these large felines. There are some claims of mountain lions that, after investigation, turn out to be legitimate cougars.

Individual sightings were verified in 2002, 2008 and 2011. These are likely young individuals dispersing from existing populations or escaped ‘pets'. Cougars from populations in surrounding states can travel hundreds of miles and may visit Louisiana on rare occasions.

As for the black cat variety, the LDWF says no claim has ever been authenticated. "Black jaguars and black leopards are not native to the United States. Jaguars are from Central and South America and leopards are from Africa. Jaguars have been reported crossing the Mexican border into southern Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, yet are the spotted variety and are found in the dense chaparral and brush lands. This is not to say that individuals may never escape from a zoo or be purposefully released by someone whose exotic pet has gotten too big, but the odds are the same as seeing a zebra in your food plot. Possible, but not probable."

"But I've seen one in my back yard!"
If you are able to photograph a large cat believed to be a non-native species that could be a threat to domestic animals and people, contact your local LDWF Wildlife Division field office. Field office contact information is available at http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wildlife-field-offices-and-telephone-numbers.

In addition to photos, evidence such as tracks, cache (stored kill), scat, and hair help biologists identify the animal and any additional course of action necessary.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. You can find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb or follow them on Twitter @LDWF. 

Copyright 2013 KSLA. All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow