Thursday, August 11, 2016

In Defense of the Monograph Series: Rock Throwing

On March 3, 2015, the North American Wood Ape Conservancy released the Ouachita Project Monograph (OPM), a 213-page work detailing four years of research by NAWAC members in the Ouachita Mountains Eco-region of southeast Oklahoma. In all, NAWAC personnel spent 12,000 man-hours in the field between 2011-2014. The observations and experiences of these men and women were meticulously detailed in journals and field notes. The OPM is a collection of the more notable thoughts, experiences and impressions recorded by scores of NAWAC team members who spent between 1-2 weeks at a time in the study area known as Area X.

The OPM has received criticism from some people who claim that the experiences related by NAWAC members are simply too fantastic to be believed. Some of the criticism comes from people who have, rather obviously, not taken the time to actually read the OPM while others dismiss everything in the work based simply on their belief that wood apes do not exist. In the minds of these critics, if there is no such animal, everything in the OPM must be false. My intention in this series is simple. I plan on breaking the OPM down into small sections – focusing on one observed behavior at a time – and attempt to point out that what has been described is really not that outlandish and, in fact, fits in nicely with behaviors exhibited by the known great apes. My hope is that these posts will intrigue those who have not taken time to read the OPM enough to do so as the behaviors discussed are explored in infinitely more detail in the actual monograph. The observed behavior I will focus on in this post is rock throwing.


From the time the first teams of investigators arrived at the main study area in June of 2011 through the departure of the final team in September of 2014, observations and documentation of rock throwing was almost constant. Every team that was deployed - who each stayed on site for a minimum of 7 days - recorded rock throws. Some teams observed more of this activity than others but no team, to my knowledge, failed to record fewer than a dozen rock impacts during their stay, mostly caused by projectiles ranging in size from a quarter to a baseball. Some teams documented in excess of 100 rocks being thrown during their week in the study site. Some of the rocks were directly observed by team members flying through the air before striking the roof of the cabin or a satellite structure or landing on the ground right beside them. Other team members saw rocks whiz through the air directly in front of them as they hiked or, after hearing a loud impact on the cabin or shed, watched a rock roll down from the corrugated metal roof and land virtually at their feet. Rocks do not simply fly through the air on their own and the physical location of the main cabin and its satellite structures made it impossible for any dislodged rocks to roll down the slope through the incredibly dense foliage of the nearby mountain and land on the roof. NAWAC investigators conducted multiple experiments in an effort to see if rolling rocks coming down the mountain could, indeed, reach the roofs of the structures in camp. They were simply unable to get any rocks that were manually dislodged to get anywhere near the cabin as their momentum was always stopped by trees or brush prior to reaching the building. The handful of dislodged rocks that did manage to roll through and clear the brush all rolled to a stop short of the cabin itself and never came anywhere close to reaching the base of the structure, much less the roof, as the cabin is not sitting directly under any sort of cliff or overhang. The only rocks that reached the cabin roof during these experiments were those that were purposefully thrown in an overhand manner by team members. Even using an overhand throwing motion, it proved difficult for NAWAC members to reach the cabin roof from more than 20-25 yards away due to the incredibly dense foliage and forest canopy. The experiments satisfied the NAWAC that rocks were purposefully, and willfully, being thrown at the cabin either from close range or by an entity strong enough to remain at a safe distance and hurl the projectile with enough force to penetrate the foliage and strike the cabin or a satellite structure.

The sheer number of rock-throwing incidents would also seem to eliminate dislodged rocks as the explanation for these impacts. Rocks do not decide to come loose and fling themselves into the air. Rocks dislodged by animals or erosion would not occur in the numbers documented and, as mentioned previously, could not have reached the roofs of the cabin structures even if they had. Too, the high number of rock impacts seems to have caused some people to doubt that wood apes could be responsible or that the incidents occurred at all. I can assure you that the rock-throwing incidents did occur but understand the question of whether or not something, or someone, else besides wood apes could be responsible. Let us look at who, or what, native to the area, could possibly be responsible for these rock-throwing incidents. To be sure, the number of possible suspects is extremely limited.

Suspect 1 – Black Bears: Bears do not throw rocks, period. It is possible that a bear could dislodge and roll a rock while foraging for food but, as noted above, the rocks thrown were, for the most part, quarter to baseball-sized. These smaller rocks simply could not roll down the heavily wooded slope and reach the cabin roof. Bears are certainly strong enough to flip and roll larger rocks but larger projectiles were rarely observed and, certainly, nobody would attempt to cogently argue that a black bear picked up and threw, tossed or flipped a basketball-sized rock with enough force that it cleared all of the foliage between the top of and base of the mountain in order to strike the roof of a structure or whiz by the face of an investigator. In my mind, black bears are out.


Suspect 2 - Squirrels, raccoons and/or other small mammals: Squirrels will occasionally drop nuts or objects onto tents or even passers by but these projectiles always fall straight down. NAWAC team members have directly observed rocks and other projectiles, like tree limbs, flying through the air in a horizontal fashion. Squirrels lack the dexterity and strength to manage such a feat. The same could be said for raccoons. Though the paws of a raccoon are incredibly dexterous and “hand-like,” the most they could possibly manage would be to toss small pebbles in an underhanded motion. It is simply not feasible to think squirrels or raccoons are responsible for the rock throws recorded by NAWAC observers in Area X.

Suspect 3 – Humans: On the surface, this explanation seems to be the most plausible. After all, it does take hands to throw rocks and other objects. Could the NAWAC members be the victims of a hoax? Could humans be responsible for the rock throwing incidents documented in the study area? For various reasons, my opinion is no, humans are not, and could not be, responsible for the rock throwing incidents documented in the OPM. Certainly, humans are physically capable of such an act, no one is arguing that point; however, once the entire picture is taken into account – and to do so, one must actually read the entire OPM – it should become clear to all but the most unreasonable of skeptics that human intervention is, at best, extremely unlikely if not impossible. Area X is miles from the nearest human habitation. Miles. It is amazingly difficult to find the study site, as the road in to the area does not appear on maps. Actually, calling the way in a road is generous. The path is incredibly rough and treacherous and numerous NAWAC members have suffered multiple flats and vehicle damage as a result of attempting to traverse it. I, myself, have left parts of my truck somewhere along that brutal road to go along with multiple incidents of tire and body damage. Nobody with any sense would travel that road for any length of time unless they knew exactly where they were going. The area itself is heavily forested and filled with all manner of dangerous wildlife. Ticks, canebrake rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, mountain lions and black bears roam the area and have, on more than one occasion, caused NAWAC members some anxious moments. The terrain is heavily wooded with amazingly dense underbrush. Thorny plants and poison ivy are rampant. In addition, the area is easily the rockiest place I have ever seen. I have never been anywhere where just walking was so difficult and treacherous. The area receives 50+ inches of rain per year and downpours are not uncommon even in summer months. The heat and humidity become very difficult to tolerate and only the most hardy and determined of people would make a conscious decision to stay there even with a full compliment of camping gear. The idea that a person, or multiple people, would sit out in such an environment for weeks on end, without setting up some kind of camp, to torment NAWAC members with thrown rocks at all hours of the day and night is absolutely laughable.

Suspect 4 – Wood apes: The NAWAC’s hypothesis is that wood apes, or sasquatches, are responsible for the rock throwing incidents documented in the OPM. When the rock throwing incidents are considered in context with other unusual observations documented by members, including, but not limited to, wood knocks, mumbling faux speech, howls, powerful smells, loud bangs and/or slaps on metal/structures and, finally, visuals of an agile, hair-covered and bipedal animal, the wood ape hypothesis does not seem so incredible. Further, when the documented behaviors are compared to known behaviors observed in the great apes of Asia and Africa, they seem less fantastic still. In my opinion, a point has been reached where the explanations offered by skeptics of possible hoax scenarios are more fanciful and unlikely than the possibility that there is an undocumented animal in the region.


Following are excerpts from the OPM detailing some of the more notable incidents of rock throwing observed my NAWAC members.

On the night of May 10th and into the early morning hours of May 11th, 2012, a team of NAWAC investigators made up of Daryl Colyer, Rick Hayes, Ken Helmer and Paul Bowman experienced several strange events and heard multiple odd noises/vocalizations. The highlight of the night, however, was the exchange of thrown rocks between the team and an unknown assailant perched somewhere on the mountain slope to the N-NW. The incident became known as the “rock war” among NAWAC members. Between the hours of 7:44 p.m on the 10th and 2:30 a.m. on the 11th, the men heard multiple rock impacts on the cabin and its satellite structures, heard rocks or other projectiles crashing through the dense foliage of the mountain slope, saw, heard and felt rock impacts in their immediate vicinity and heard strange vocalizations including an “OOOOO” sound, faint “chatter” and, off and on, smelled a powerful equine-like odor similar to what might be encountered in a horse stall.

While most rock throws experienced by the group are believed to have originated from a spot close to camp or to the members (20-50 yards), more than once, NAWAC investigators reported rock throws that are estimated to have carried amazing distances. One such incident, which occurred on July 3, 2013 and recorded in the OPM, follows.

4:33 a.m. – McAndrews and Horstman heard what they first believed were independent wood knocks, but then realized they had heard one single object (a rock) thrown from the east to the west along the slope of the mountain. The rock apparently struck wood four times before it succumbed to gravity and fell to the earth, perhaps, providing the final knock sound. McAndrews and Horstman were in disbelief when they realized that the object had been thrown an estimated 100 yards along the slope of the mountain.

4:53 a.m. – Another rock was thrown and landed somewhere to the east in the bottleneck area. After that, many rocks were launched. It seemed that rocks were flying in every direction. The men found it was impossible to document them all. McAndrews and Horstman wondered if the rocks were part of some kind of hunting activity.

5:00 a.m. – Horstman and McAndrews heard another throw of incredible velocity and accuracy zip through the trees from the southwest woods. It cleared the base campground and then blasted the roof of the base camp cabin. It sounded like a gunshot going off in the night. The men estimated that the rock had been thrown from no less than 60-70 yards away from the southwest. McAndrews wrote of the incident, “I am unnerved for the first time in the overwatch tent. Make no mistake, there is an animal out there that can throw powerfully and accurately in pitch darkness. Wow.”


Over the four-year survey period, NAWAC teams physically collected over 60 rocks from the roofs of the base cabin or other roofed structures on the property. The rocks varied in size and shape and were, on average, golf ball to baseball-sized.

Other incidents, while less spectacular than the first two noted here, are considered just as significant by the group. One such incident is recorded below and shows that rock throws did not take place only in close proximity to the base camp cabin and satellite structures, which are all situated reasonably close to the base of the mountain, but also in flatter areas some distance away from any kind of slope. The incident is taken from the after-action report of Operation Persistence Team Delta of May 26, 2012.

4:30 p.m. – Daryl Colyer and Travis Lawrence deployed in the ghost blinds to the south side of the creek bank on relatively flat, but rocky, ground.

5:30 p.m. – The first of several rocks landed just below where Lawrence and Colyer were deployed. The rock was baseball-sized and landed a few feet from Lawrence. It hit the rocks below him and loudly bounced around. Colyer and Lawrence exchanged rock throws over the next half hour with the unseen rock thrower to their E-NE. The culprit was concealed behind a wall of dense vegetation and forest debris.


Individual members seem to have been targeted by unseen rock throwers, two of whom were actually struck by projectiles. Paul Bowman, Kathy Strain, Travis Lawrence, Jerry Hestand and Mark McClurken were all buzzed very closely by rocks – within inches or a few feet- or, in the case of Baron Meadows, actually struck on his boot, during the summer of 2013.

11:01 p.m. – As Hayes walked around the cabin toward the fire circle, a rock popped the base camp cabin roof.

11:03 p.m. – Another rock, seemingly thrown from the mountain slope, landed on the ground between Strain and Hayes.

11:30 p.m. – As Hestand stood by the east shed, a rock loudly blasted the roof of the shed, greatly startling him. He believed the rock had been intended for him.


The incidents shared previously are but a few that are documented in the OPM. While incredible in their own right, these incidents are far from unique. Native Americans have long believed wood apes throw stones and sticks in order to drive human interlopers away from their locations. John Bindernagel refers to once such report in his book North America’s Great Ape: The Sasquatch.

“An account of the giant, hairy ‘bushmen’ of the Yukon River in Alaska reports that, in addition to being good swimmers and throwing rocks and sticks at people, they (sasquatches) steal dried salmon from fish camps.”


Bindernagel also recalls a recollection of John Green in Chapter 15 of his tome.

“John Green also recalls hearing people from Klemtu, a village on the central British Columbia coast, tell about rocks being thrown at them from the adjacent forest when they attempted to dig clams on certain beaches. The Klemtu residents assumed that ‘apes’ or ‘Bukwas’ (sasquatches) were trying to dissuade them from clam harvesting on those beaches.”

Bindernagel believes that the throwing of rocks by wood apes can be almost benign in nature, maybe no more than an attempt to elicit a response of some sort from an interesting human. In some cases the hurling of stones may be a way to deter people from entering or occupying an area without the need for more aggressive displays. To illustrate one of the more benign incidents, Bindernagel recounted the experience of a mechanic on southwestern Vancouver Island in his book.

“In this situation, two small stones – under two inches in diameter – were thrown separately onto the hood of the mechanic’s truck while he repaired logging equipment at night in a remote location on a logging road. After the second stone landed, the mechanic walked around the vehicle to investigate. He got there in time to see a ‘big hairy, apelike man’ stride quickly up the steep cut-bank on two legs.’”

Bindernagel also shares a few accounts where the rock-throwing intensity seems to have been taken up a notch and is an attempt to intimidate or frighten humans into leaving an area. The following incidents, recounted in America’s Great Ape: The Sasquatch, highlight this behavior.

“In the summer of 1992, on a remote island off northern Vancouver Island, a group of clam-diggers beached their boat in a bay and began walking up the beach. One of the men spotted an ape-like face watching them from behind a large stump on the shore; immediately after this, the men were subjected to a barrage of rocks and driftwood from this area. A fist-sized rock narrowly missed one man’s head. As they retreated to their boat, a loud whistling resounded from the shore.”

“After a huge rock landed so close that it almost swamped his canoe, a man fishing on Morris Creek, British Columbia looked up to see a sasquatch on a ledge. The animal was stamping its feet and waving its hairy arms wildly.”

“Fred Bradshaw, while a policeman in Gray’s Harbor County, Washington visited a remote area where a boy had reported being pelted with rocks. Soon after setting up camp nearby, a large alder limb crashed into his campsite. By spotlight he was able to see a sasquatch partly hidden behind a fir tree about fifty feet away.”


The accounts above are all relatively recent; however, reports of rock throwing wood apes go back much farther in time. Bindernagel mentions these in Chapter 15 of his book as well.

“The oldest is the 1846 report of a Hudson’s Bay Company inspector who was establishing a post in the Harrison Lake area of British Columbia. During one of several encounters with ‘wild giants of the mountains,’ he and his party were met by a ‘bombardment of rocks hurled by a number of sasquatches.’”

“Another tells of the seven-foot tall ‘wild man’ seen in the Sixes River mining area of Oregon in 1904. In addition to cabin shaking, the wild man was also reported to have thrown a four-pound rock at a man.”


Perhaps, the most famous rock-throwing incident in sasquatch lore is the tale of what happened to Fred Beck and his group of prospectors in 1924 in Washington’s Ape Canyon. The story is quite well known so I will not recount it in much detail here. Basically, Beck and his party were prospecting when one of his men spotted a wood ape and took a shot at it, apparently hitting it. That night the cabin in which the men were staying came under “attack.” The intensity of the attack has been the subject of much debate and, no doubt, been sensationalized over the years. Beck, himself, refuted many of the newspaper accounts in which it was written that large boulders slammed the cabin walls. He did, however, concede that many smaller ones (rocks) were hurled at the cabin. “They did not break through the roof but hit with a bang before rolling off,” he said.

Another modern account of rock-throwing comes from none other than Dr. Jeff Meldrum, a figure widely known by those interested in the wood ape mystery. The following account comes from the introduction of his book Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. To set the scene, Meldrum and a party were conducting fieldwork in the Siskiyou Wilderness in Northern California. While revisiting a ridgeline where some intriguing tracks had been found earlier in the trip, Meldrum had an interested encounter.

“Along the trail I hoped to get another look at what remained of the tracks we had encountered earlier along the ridgeline. They were in thick timber and relatively sheltered from the direct onslaught of the rains. We paused there for a respite and some refreshment. As I slung my pack off, a softball-sized rock sailed onto the trail a mere few feet away. A slight shiver crept up my spine. There was no high point nearby from which a rock might have been dislodged by the rainstorm. Nor did it simply roll onto the trail from uphill. It had been airborne; it had been lobbed.”

It should now be established that the accounts of rock-throwing documented by NAWAC members in the OPM are not unique. Similar accounts have been recorded from different locales going back for decades or, in the case of the Native Americans, centuries. The question now becomes, are there any precedents for this type of behavior among known animals, the great apes in particular? The answer is a resounding yes.

Both chimpanzees and orangutans have been known to throw rocks, limbs or other loose impediments when feeling threatened. Jane Goodall has catalogued twelve gestures and postures of threat when it comes to behavioral displays in chimpanzees. The displays range in intensity from the fairly benign to the most serious, charging by dominant males. She has noted that this charging display is by far the most dramatic in the chimpanzee repertoire and the likeliest to culminate in an actual physical attack. According to Goodall, this display may include actions “such as throwing rocks or other loose material.” In 1964, Goodall went so far as to say, “the chimpanzees threw anything that was at hand.” By 1968, she had additional data indicating that approximately half the objects observed thrown during a two-year period “were large enough to intimidate baboons and, certainly, humans.”


This rock-throwing behavior has also been observed in captivity. According to a 2009 article in the journal Current Biology, a chimpanzee named Santino routinely collected rocks, cached them and then waited until zoo visitors approached his enclosure. Once visitors were within range, Santino would hurl the rocks at them in an effort to shoo them away. Santino’s behavior proves that one of the known great ape species can, and does, throw rocks when aggravated. Even more compelling, it hints at cognitive capabilities greater than we might have imagined in an ape. Santino always collected his rocks during periods of calm before zoo visitors arrived. He stashed them away until the moment was right and, only then, began throwing them at zoo patrons. This shows at least a rudimentary ability to understand and plan for the future. Who is to say that wood apes cannot, or do not, do the same?

In March of 2012, I wrote a blog post about a captive gorilla that featured a large silverback throwing a piece of sod at zoo workers in an adjacent enclosure. In the video, the big male casually makes his way to an area where the turf in his enclosure is loose, digs out a piece and then quickly moves toward the workers using his momentum to make a powerful overhand throw. The thing that really struck me was how the gorilla threw the sod. To say it was a true overhand throw would not be accurate but, to put it in baseball terms, it was at least a three-quarter motion. To see a non-human primate throw an object in a powerful overhand manner is pretty special. Skeptics have argued that only humans can throw objects in such a way. This video would seem to suggest otherwise. While the silverback’s motion is not as fluid as that of a human throwing a baseball, he effectively uses a running start to build momentum and, thus, gain velocity on his throw. What if, instead of a piece of sod, this gorilla had hurled a baseball-sized rock? Said rock would be capable of injuring a human or making a very loud noise if it hit a structure like a corrugated metal roof. Note, too, in the video how the gorilla makes his throw and immediately flees in an effort to avoid detection. Clearly, in this video the workers in the adjacent enclosure know exactly who threw the sod at them but, if a similar incident were to occur on a heavily forested mountain slope, similar to the NAWAC’s main study area, it is entirely possible the guilty ape would escape detection. After all, when a person hears a loud impact, such as a rock striking a structure, he or she turns their head to look at the area where the impact took place. Only after doing so will a person turn to look back at the area from where the projectile might have originated. This small window of time would be enough for even a large animal to retreat safely out of sight.



The title of this post is a bit misleading. I do not believe the Ouachita Project Monograph needs defending. It is a meticulously detailed and scholarly work of which I am very proud to have had even a small part in producing. The events documented in it all really happened. Those of you who have an open mind when it comes to the possible existence of the wood ape, or sasquatch, but doubt some of the content of the OPM need only to do a little digging on your own to find countless examples of similar behaviors reported over the years by people claiming to have had a bigfoot encounter. Too, it is easy enough to look into the current research on known great apes and find similar behaviors to those recounted in the OPM. Nothing documented therein is outside the realm of known great ape behaviors. For those of you who do not believe wood apes could possibly exist, I invite you to download the OPM from the NAWAC website at no cost. Not only can you download the entire OPM, all 200+ pages of it, you can listen to audio of rock strikes captured during our research in Area X.

Go, read and listen. It is worth the time.

Sources:

Colyer, Daryl, Alton Higgins, Brian Brown, Kathy Strain, Michael Mayes, and Baron McAndrews. Ouachita Project Monograph. Vol. 1.1. North American Wood Ape Conservancy, 2015. Print.

Bindernagel, John A. North America's Great Ape, the Sasquatch: A Wildlife Biologist Looks at the Continent's Most Misunderstood Large Mammal. Courtenay, B.C.: Beachcomber, 1998. Print.

Meldrum, Jeff. Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. New York: Forge, 2006. Print.

Mayes, Michael. "Chimp Plans Attack on Humans." Texas Cryptid Hunter. Blogspot, 9 Mar. 2009. Web. 11 Aug. 2016.

Gorilla Pranks Zoo Workers. Gorilla Pranks Zoo Workers. NFO's Channel, 18 Mar. 2012. Web. 11 Aug. 2016.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

New "Black Panther" Reports

Following are the latest reports submitted to me by fellow Texans who claim to have encountered large, black, long-tailed cats matching the classic description of a “black panther.” As I have stated here numerous times, there is not supposed to be any such animal. Despite this fact, Texans, and other people across the American South, continue to report sightings of these enigmatic felines.

Before we go any farther, numerous people have posted comments to previous posts on this topic claiming to have photos of these mystery cats. It is true that photos cannot be attached to comments; however, pictures can be emailed directly to me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. This email address can also be found in the right margin of the blog site. PLEASE, if you have photos or videos, attach them to an email and send them to this address. If you are leaving a comment on another post and would like for me to contact you directly, contact information will have to be included in the comment you leave, as I cannot respond directly to said comments.

Now, on to the reports…

5-15-16

“Hello,

I just wanted to inform you that this video was taken on my property the other night and they do, in fact exist, in Austin, Texas. Video, still pictures from an ATS night vision scope with an IR light. I also have pics with him killing and eating a deer and also a pic with me in the same spot as the cat with a tape measure to prove this guy is 250-300 lbs. already contacted the TPW game warden I was told to shoot it if I see it again as that cat could take me out in a matter of seconds and I hunt a lot at night by my self for hogs.”

- Adam Pace


TCH Comment: This is an interesting still. I do not get the impression this is a hog but it cannot absolutely be ruled out. I would really need to see the video to be sure. Also, the report is sketchy on exactly where the sighting took place. Adam mentioned in a different email that he has other photos. While I lean toward “cat,” based on the still provided, I would need to see the other photos/video to be sure. Adam, if you are reading this, please send the video, or a link to it, along with any other photos you have of this animal. While intriguing, I will leave this sighting off the sighting distribution map until I see the other photos/video.



6-1-16

“I saw something like this in northeast Texas. Looked like a medium size dog but was black and quite slender, almost like a huge dachshund and really long. It saw me and darted behind some items in the carport and watched me. I stood still not sure what to do. It suddenly leaped out toward me and I made a run for the house, which was only a few feet away. When I closed the door the big "cat" changed directions and ran off into the dark field surrounding the house. I wondered if it was a panther but I always thought they were huge.”

- Lisa Carlson


TCH Comment: I believe Lisa’s report, and it sounds like she might have ecountered a jaguarundi, but there are some additional details I would like to get before placing the sighting on the distribution map. Was a tail visible? What was the head shape? Were the ears small or large? Etc. Lisa, if you are reading this please feel free to contact me with these additional details.


6-25-16

“I was discussing with my mom my trip to big bend and told her about what I thought was a jaguarundi running on the side of the road between Fredericksburg and Harper. I pulled up some photos to show her what they look like, and that's when I stumbled upon your website. I unfortunately have no photos of it, but it was running in the tall grass on the side of the road and all I could see hop up was the back of its head, which was a dark chocolate brown color, and it had those tiny round ears that are not like any dog or cat. It was low to the ground but was running fast.

This was on the 15th. I kept dismissing it, like maybe it was a skunk with no stripe, like there's no way a jaguarundi was this far north, but I started thinking that during the height of the drought, people kept reporting to a game warden friend of mine bear sightings outside of Sonora, so maybe it isn't totally out of the realm of possibility. I wasn't sure if you only want photos, or sightings as well. I had an internship with parks and wildlife where I had to determine plants from a distance and so I'm always watching the roads carefully. I almost wish I could retrain my brain to not do it, but without this annoying trait I might not have seen it.

In any case, I'm glad I stumbled upon your website, I'll definitely be keeping up with it!”

-Robin


TCH Comment: This is another sighting where I want to make it clear that I believe the witness. In this case, however, all Robin was really able to see was the top/back of the animal’s head. The description of the ears is intriguing, but without other details I cannot even be absolutely sure a cat was the animal seen. Much like the report from Lisa above, I need to know if a tail was visible and a size estimate. The witness here considered the idea that a skunk might have been seen. Though dismissed later, it makes me wonder about the size of the animal seen. Robin, if you can fill in some of these details, please email me. For now, I will hold off on putting this sighting on my sightings distribution map.



7-2-16

“I would love to show you the photos of a large female and a smaller cat near Tildon. I'm about 200lb and have very large hands. My fist was swallowed by the size of the adults paw print. This is a high fence ranch with massive white tail. I think these cats are eating well.”

- Stephen Burgeorf


TCH Comment: Stephen, I wold love to see those photos. Please email them to me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. Thanks.


7-21-6

“We have pictures of a panther In our back yard from a deer cam in Huntington TX Right outside of Lufkin,TX
I didn't see anywhere to post them or I would do that, I almost didn't believe it in my own back yard!!”

- Kathy Franklin


TCH Comment: Kathy, I would love to see those photos. Please email them to me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. Thanks.



7-24-16

“Hi. My name is Holly Blackmon and I live outside of Paris, Texas. My husband pastor's a small country church that is about 15 miles northeast of Paris. This happened 5-6 years ago. I believe it was late summer/early fall in the late afternoon. My daughter and I had been out riding horses and were in the car headed back home. This happened on CR 45600 just off of FM 1502 in far northeastern Lamar county (nearly to the Red River county line). I was driving slowly because we were looking at one of our church member's horses. When we came over the crest of a little hill there was a black panther sauntering across the road in front of us! Maybe 10-15 yards away. He never got in a hurry and acted like it never saw us. I was stopped and watching it and I remember thinking am I really seeing this? The mascot of the school district I work for is a panther and I kept thinking it looks just like the North Lamar panther! It was large and black, Its feet were huge and it's tail hung down in the back and curled (like a backward “J”). It walked across the road and into the pasture on the other side. A few days later we were having a fellowship at our church and another lady was telling the church member who had the horses that we were looking at that she was driving past on the same road and across from where his horses were, a black panther was just sitting there! I have watched for it ever since but never seen it again.”

- Holly Blackmon


TCH Comment: Holly’s account is compelling and she does not seem to have any doubt as to what she saw. In addition, the sighting took place in an area with a history of sightings of large, black, long-tailed cats. I will be adding this sighting to my sightings distribution map.


7-26-16

“I live in Helotes, in an acreage community. Just before dusk today, I was driving home and a dark colored, weird looking cat, long tail, long body, flattened head, ran in front of my car into a thicket of trees. No way it was a domestic cat. Was about 1.5 times the size of a house cat, and ran in a weird, pogo motion bouncing from front feet to back feet. That's what struck me as most odd about it. I’m pretty sure it was a Jaguarundi, but they aren’t supposed to be here. Hope they are making a comeback, though.”

- Anonymous


TCH Comment: Helotes sits in Bexar County just to the northwest of San Antonio. The area is often considered the gateway to south Texas. The witness is correct in that the jaguarundi is not supposed to live that far north, however, his description is dead on for the species. I believe it is plausible a jaguarundi was seen and will include this sighting on my distribution map.


Readers likely have noticed that the majority of the reports included in this post were not added to my black panther sightings distribution map, at least not yet. I have included the reports here for public viewing for two reasons. First, I believe the accounts of Adam, Lisa and Robin. I do not want there to be any doubt about that. The second reason I have included them is to show that I do not, no matter how intriguing an account might be, add each and every reported sighting to the map. Sightings must meet certain criteria in my mind and include certain details that help rule out cases of mistaken identity. Should Adam, Lisa or Robin contact me with additional information and fill in some of the gaps in their accounts, I will gladly add the their sightings to the distribution map.

In the meantime, if you care to peruse the interactive black panther sighting distribution map, click here. Once you can view the map, click on individual pins to read a brief synopsis of what was reported at the location.

Monday, July 18, 2016

New Game Camera Photos From Central Texas

I have been out of pocket the last few weeks. I spent a week in the Ouachita Mountains as part of a NAWAC team attempting to obtain evidence that supports our hypothesis that the wood ape (bigfoot) is a real flesh and blood animal. I was home only a day and a half before loading up and heading to the White Mountains of New Mexico. This second trip was more of a family vacation but, my interests being what they are, I just could not help making some forays into the Lincoln National Forest and hiking some areas where alleged wood ape sightings have taken place. While I had no sightings of unusual wildlife (I did get up close and personal with a cow elk and several mule deer) I was struck by just how much richer an environment the deciduous forests of the Ouachitas are compared to the coniferous forests of south-central New Mexico. That is a topic for another day, however, as I would like to take this time to begin catching you all up on what I have been up to the last month or so. I will start with my activities prior to my trips.

I received a message from a gentleman in early June who reported two separate sightings of a large, black, long-tailed cat by a total of three different people on and near his property. I was particularly excited as the sightings were very recent and the property was only about a thirty-minute drive from my home. I had two game cameras available for deployment and the landowner generously agreed to let me place them on site. Once deployed, I let the cameras sit for a month before going out and checking on them. I was disappointed in that I did not capture photos of cats of any kind but encouraged to see the amount of wildlife that does live in the area. Certainly, there is a solid prey base for a big cat to sustain itself upon, at least for a few weeks. Following are some of my favorite photos from the set.


Species other than those pictured were photographed as well but nothing outside of what would be expected in Central Texas (skunks, opossums, raccoons, etc.). Despite the lack of photographic evidence, the witness seems very credible and is absolutely sure of what he saw. I can only hope that the cat in question cooperates by remaining in the area long enough to have its picture taken.

I am due to check the cameras again in the next week or two and will update with new photos at that time.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cameras Placed at Black Panther Sighting Location

I received an email two weeks ago from a gentleman requesting that I call him. I did and it turns out he wanted to question me about “black panthers” and whether or not they have ever been seen near the area where he makes his home. I gave him my opinion on what I believe these animals to be and told him that they have been reported on multiple occasions near his location. He then shared with me that there had been two visuals on his property in the last week. His wife saw what she called a black panther just before turning onto their property and he and a friend saw a large, black, long-tailed cat matching the description she gave only a few days later after entering the property gate. At most, the sighting locations were no more than 1/4 mile apart and separated in time by only a few days. I was greatly intrigued and was especially excited as the area where the sightings took place is only about a 30-minute drive from my home. I asked if he would be open my visiting the property and putting up a couple of game cameras. He was very gracious and said he would, indeed, like it if I came out and put up a couple of cameras.


Two days later, I made my way out to the property (I will keep the exact location confidential for the time being). It was more difficult to get there than it normally would have been due to recent flooding. I encountered road closures, due to high water, on the first two routes I tried. Finally, after taking a rather circuitous route that added quite a bit of distance to the drive, I was able to get to the property. A theory began to form in my mind as I encountered these flooded roads. I felt it was very possible that this animal, whatever it was, had been using the river bottoms (again, I will withhold the name of the river as it could compromise the location of the property) as a travel route or, possibly, as its home and was forced to higher ground by the rising water. I have no way of proving this hypothesis, but it seems reasonable.

Once on site, I met the property owner and a friend of his who had been with him when the visual had taken place. They showed me the layout of the property and gave me a tour of the entire place via ATV. All together, the property belonging to the witness is made up of only 30 acres; however, family and close friends own the surrounding property. All together there are about 300 acres of undeveloped, mostly wild land on site, some of which that is only a few hundred yards from the river.


After the tour, we returned to the sighting location and set about looking for any sign. The property owner had seen some tracks on the dirt road that connects his land to the main road shortly after his sighting but heavy rains since had washed them out. He did have some photos but the tracks, while clearly there, were a bit indistinct. What was interesting were that there were two sets of tracks. One set of tracks was large and the other set significantly smaller. At one point, the smaller set of tracks disappeared from the muddy road, just vanished, while the larger set continued. It was posited by the property owner that, perhaps, the smaller animal was a cub and the mother had picked it up in her mouth upon hearing the vehicle approach and then bolted into the brush. He admitted to not having noticed a cub being carried at the time of the visual but stated the whole incident had only lasted a few seconds.


It was suggested that we go into the woods and have a look around. The property owner was all for it but did stress he felt that what he had seen could potentially be dangerous. He returned to the ATV to retrieve a machete and then took a look at the holstered pistol on my hip and asked, “Are you handy with that weapon?” I reassured him that I was and he said, “Ok.” The three of us then went “brush busting” into the heavily wooded area where the cat had retreated after crossing the road. The area was incredibly dense and gnarly. Initially, near the road, cedar and mesquite trees dominated. Vines, of both the thorny and wild grape variety, made walking tough. After about a hundred yards, maybe less, as we approached a live creek, hardwood trees began to appear. This made the walking a bit easier. The creek was pristine and animal sign abundant. As a matter of fact, we came upon a fawn bedded down in deep brush on the opposite side of the creek. We were able to get within 10-feet of it before it bolted (just before I snapped a picture of it, naturally). Sign of deer, opossum, raccoons, fox, coyote and bobcats were found but nothing to indicate the presence of a large cat. We did find a spot where it looked like something had vomited. It was quite the smelly mess but there was no way to identify what might have been responsible for it.


I placed two cameras in the woods near the creek and close to the two sighting locations along an established game trail that cut through the brush. I advised the property owner to go about his business as usual but not to go looking about in the woods near the cameras, as we wanted things in that area to get back to normal as quickly as possible. He agreed and we retreated back to the dirt road where the trucks were parked. At that time, I questioned him one more time about what he had seen. His description remained consistent; a very large, solid black cat with a long tail. He said it looked like it was half as long, from head to tail, as the dirt road was wide (this would be about 6-feet). The visual took place between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. in broad daylight. There was no mistaking the color due to low or poor lighting conditions. “That cat was coal black,” he said.

I thanked him for his hospitality and for granting me access to the property whenever I wanted and made my way home. The water in the area has receded quite a bit, to the point the roads are all open again, but remain much higher than normal. I am hoping these conditions keep this animal on the property long enough for me to get a photo.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Interactive Black Panther Distribution Map Updated

I have updated my interactive black panther distribution map with the latest sightings (detailed in yesterday's post). You can access the map by clicking here.

Once you have clicked the link and the have the map on your screen, you can click on any pin to get a brief description of the encounter that took place in that location. Feel free to offer any thoughts on patterns that might be apparent.

I have included a couple of screen shots of the map below to give you an idea of the distribution of sightings. As you can see, sightings along the I-35 corridor and east dominate. This correlates directly to the amount of rainfall the state of Texas receives. The eastern half of the state gets significantly more rainfall than the western half.



Again, to actually use the interactive feature, you will need to click the link above.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Enigmatic Black Cat Reports From Texas

Texans continue to send me reports of their encounters with large, black, long-tailed cats, most commonly referred to as black panthers in this part of the world. Before we begin, let me repeat a few things that I have said before. I know there is no such animal as a “black panther.” The known big cats that have been given this moniker are either African/Asian leopards or New World jaguars exhibiting melanism. When I use the term black panther, realize it is a colloquialism, a catchall phrase, if you will, that is commonly used in Texas and the American South to describe any large, black, long-tailed wildcat.

Some of the reports below are older than some I have already published in previous posts. There are various reasons for this, but, suffice to say, it has nothing to do with me having any doubts about their veracity. The reports appear below just as they came to me with the exception of my having redacted the names of some of the witnesses in order to protect their privacy. This step was not necessary in some cases as the reports came to me in the form of comments to existing blog posts and were submitted anonymously.

5/26/16

“I live just outside Lockhart on a 100 acre heavily wooded ranch. Driving up the driveway tonight I saw a large dark feline walking slowly up my driveway. From behind it reminded me of a tiger walking at the zoo-long thick tail and all. I flashed my bright lights at it and it turned and looked back at me with yellow eyes. It was definitely not a bobcat because we've seen those frequently on the property.”

- Anonymous


TCH Comment: Lockhart sits about 20 miles to the east of San Marcos in South-Central Texas. The San Marcos River flows only a few miles south of the community and numerous creeks wind through the area providing ample water and travel corridors for wildlife. The witness lives on a ranch. People who ranch for a living typically know their wildlife and are familiar with predators that could become problematic for their livestock. The area certainly could support a big cat.



5/23/16

“My boyfriend who lives in Alvord TX had a very large black cougar looking cat run through his pasture. It was May 7, 2016 around 2:00 pm. After talking to some of the local people around our area they say they have heard of some people spotting large big cats also. It's not frequent and ranchers in the area have had small calves killed and drug off. I'm wondering how many others have ever seen these large cats? We do live near Panther Creek in Alvord TX. Although it's rumored that these are Mexican cougar cats. Curious if anyone else has spotted these cats.”

- XXXXXX (Relayed to me by Sharon Hill of Doubtful News)


TCH Comment: This report is pretty typical of what I usually get. A witness spots a large, very dark cat of some kind, asks around to find others have seen similar animals, etc. What caught my eye was the use of the term Mexican cougar cats. In the mid to late 1800’s and well into the 1900’s similar terms, the most common of which were Mexican lion and Mexican tiger or tiger cat, were used to describe jaguars. There is no reason to doubt the person reporting the story. She does not over embellish the details and the area in question has had its share of black panther sightings. I will add this report to my distribution map.


5/23/16

“I've often wondered about this as I have had my own experience with a large black cat about 15 years ago at Pedernales State Park. My family and I were camping there at the last site open, campsite 13. My youngest daughter, who was 3 at the time, and I went for a walk on the trail behind the campsite just before dusk. She walked ahead of me, picking up rocks or leaves that fascinated her. I happened to spot movement in the shadowed path ahead. I really couldn't believe what I was seeing- a large black cat with green eyes. I grabbed my daughter in a split second and stood mesmerized for just a few moments, still not really comprehending what I was seeing. I quickly turned and went back to the campsite. I asked my daughter what we just saw and she said "cat". I told my husband, which sounded quite unbelievable when spoken. I went back to see if it was still there, but it was gone. When I returned, deer came trampling through our site as if to be running from something- a big black cat! I ran up to the Ranger station to make the report and was met with ridicule. I forced them to take the information. So sad. We packed up and left when I returned. What an experience that I will never forget! I still love Pedernales!”

- Kami XXXXXXX


TCH Comment: Pedernales Falls State Park is located in Blanco County 10 miles east of Johnson City along the Pedernales River. As of the 2000 census, there were only 8,418 people residing in the county. This works out to an average of only 12 people per square mile. While Austin continues to sprawl to the south and west, there is still a lot of space for a predator to roam in the area. Mountain lions are seen in the area from time to time. If cougars can survive in the area there is no reason to think another species of large cat could not do the same.


5/21/16

“About 15 years ago, my husband and I used to ride out bikes at McAllister Park in San Antonio. Believe it or not we saw a large black animal that looked like what everybody has described in your blog. It was way too big to be domesticated, it was the size of a large dog but it was feline...very stealthy and ran quickly across the road at a distance from us...”

- M. XXXXXXX


TCH Comment: I have had what I believe to be credible reports of large cats come out of surprisingly urban areas; however, I am a bit dubious on this one. Understand, it is not the witness I have an issue with as I believe she and her husband did see something, I just am having a hard time figuring out how, and why, a large predator would come to be in this area. McAllister Park sits right off of Wurzbach Parkway, a very busy road, inside of loop 410 (the “inner loop” of the city). A big cat would have to traverse a lot of city to get to this location. Urban sightings are plausible when there is a route in and out of an the area that a large animal could traverse unseen like a greenbelt, a creek or river, etc. There is no such feature coming from outside of town all the way into McAllister Park. It is true that Lorence Creek comes close to this site but it peters out back to the west just as it gets to 281, well short of 1604 (the “outer loop” of the city) and beyond where it does get pretty lonesome and wild pretty quick. In addition, McAllister Park has an area especially designated as a dog park. It is possible that a large, black dog got away from its owner and made a brief appearance on the trail. I certainly could be wrong but all of these factors lead me to believe the possibility of a misidentification in this particular incident are strong. For that reason, I will be leaving this sighing off of my distribution map.


5/20/16

“I came across your site searching for possible answers to what my daughter saw. We live in Del Rio, Tx and my daughter (21 not a child btw) was out walking one of our huskies, when she saw a large black cat run across the street, from the neighborhood into the brush in an undeveloped area. She came running in the house, scared, saying she's just seen a black panther. I told her we don't have panthers in Texas but she said it was about the size of our huskies, with a long tail and jet black. I spoke to our neighbors across the street about it because their house is adjacent to that undeveloped area, and they said they have been hearing two large cats in the evenings, for about a month now. They said it sounds like a child a screaming. The property the cat ran to eventually goes back into ranch land and Mexico. Any ideas what my daughter saw?”

- Donna XXXX
X

TCH Comment: That is certainly the million dollar question isn’t it? Del Rio sits just north of the U.S.-Mexico border along the Rio Grande River and just to the E-SE of Amistad Reservoir. There is no question that a big cat could be living in this area. It is sparsely populated with miles of open space to roam. It should be noted here that jaguars have been documented crossing into the U.S. from Mexico in Arizona and New Mexico. If it can happen in these border states, there is no reason to believe it could not happen here in Texas, too. Did Donna’s daughter see a black jaguar? Obviously, I cannot say for sure. I can say that if it really was as big as a husky, it could not be a jaguarundi or domestic/feral cat. The tale described eliminates the possibility of a misidentified bobcat and cougars do not exhibit melanism. What does that leave?



4/24/16

“I live in Willis, TX, North of Houston, I saw a large black cat chasing a deer through the back of my neighborhood. Went back today and got photos of the tracks.”

- Jennifer XXXXXXX


TCH Comment: Short, sweet and to the point. Willis sits just north of the Houston suburb of Conroe and, while not in the national forest proper, is surrounded on three sides by the Sam Houston National Forest. The area does have a history of sightings of large, black, long-tailed cats. Jennifer, I would love to see the photos of the tracks. If possible, please email me the photos at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. I will hold off on placing this sighting on my distribution map until I can get a look at those tracks.


4/9/16

“We are in Emory, Texas and seen a big brown cougar twice with s big head and a black jaguar sized cat twice in own back yard. They hunt our deer in our brush.”

- Anonymous


TCH Comment: I think it is important to point out that this witness clearly differentiated between two different types of big cats he has seen on his property. Nearly all Texans, even those living in urban environments, know what a mountain lion looks like. Even if it is uncharacteristically dark, a cougar is a cougar. Folks also know when they have seen something different. That seems to be what has happened here. I would encourage this witness, and anyone reading who has seen one of these enigmatic cats, to get a game camera up on the property.


1/29/16

“Sitting on the back patio of our hill top house with my wife I spotted a large black cat about 250 yards away coming out of a creek wash in the pasture and weed over grown field behind our property. I pointed out the creature to my wife and then grabbed binoculars from the house to watch as it travelled across the field. Upon my return it spotted my movement and began moving slowly away toward some over growth weeds and mesquite brush, stopping twice to look over it’s shoulder back at me, before disappearing into the over growth of weeds and mesquite brush. The animal was about 18 to 20 inches tall and had a body length of about 40 inches with a tail about 25 to 30 inches in length. It appeared to be half again larger than a Bobcat but smaller than a full-grown mountain lion and possessed a fairly small head in relationship to the body. The color was dark charcoal black to a dull black with no distinct markings. The animal walked in a manner I would refer to as ambling and did not hurry to exit even after seeing my movement. In it’s travels I observed it walked past three horses upwind from it without spooking them and then after disappearing it past about 7 or 8 cows downwind from it 100 yards sending a yearling calf scampering at full run into the safety of the herd. The herd then moved as a group toward the cat and in the direction of a road bridge that lay in the direction it had last been seen traveling toward. In a few minutes the cattle lost interest and returned to grazing. The cat had probably passed under the roadway at the bridge moving along the winding creek bottom.”

Earl XXXXXX, Prairie Dell, Texas


TCH Comment: The description of this cats appearance given by Earl is almost a textbook description of a jaguarundi. The size, the long tail, small head and charcoal/black dull-colored coat described all fit the jaguarundi bill. Even the fact that the cat did not overly alarm the livestock would make sense as a jaguarundi would not be a threat to an animal as large as a horse or a cow. The Prairie Dell area could still sustain a large predator. There is an ample whitetail deer population and more feral hogs than can be counted. Numerous creeks and stock ponds could provide water and, to this point, the sprawl from Austin has not reached quite this far north. I will be adding the sighting to my distribution map.


11/18/15

“OK…three things have recently come together and have me scratching my head. My wife and I live in East Texas in a well-known RV Park / Campground in the Pine Forest. The park is Wolf Creek Park, located in San Jacinto County just outside of Coldspring, TX. Last month, my wife mentioned that one of our campers had seen a “black panther”. I didn't listen much to the story but did let her know that they must have mistaken something else for it because big cats do not exist in this part of Texas. She knew the campers well and thought they would not make something like that up but I didn’t give it another thought.

This morning, a friend who recently bought a ranch about 20 miles from here, told me that after moving his horses from his previous ranch to the new one about a week ago a “cat” had gotten hold of his #1 competition horse and seriously mauled it. I asked him if it was a bobcat or if the horse had somehow tangled with a domestic/feral cat and he replied “it was a panther or cougar or whatever you call them up here, it took 480 stitches to sew him up!” He said someone from Parks and Wildlife advised him that large cats moved “up and down in this area”???

I was shocked and on my way home realized that I may have actually seen one myself, on two occasions. First, I used to travel to Louisiana quite often on business. When I have to be in Baton Rouge or Lafayette I will usually elect to leave very early in the morning from my home rather than stay overnight in a hotel. I have seen just about every kind of creature we are familiar with in this part of the country on or near the roads I travel at these early hours. Several months ago I was only about 2 miles from the Park and approaching a home that I knew had several dogs that could often be found close to or even laying on the road. I slowed up just before getting there and was not surprised to see an animal cross from left to right up ahead just barely in my headlights. I could see that it stopped on the shoulder of the road and was facing me. As I got closer and passed it, I got goose bumps over what I thought I saw. It appeared to be a large black cat, its fur was a dull looking dark gray or black and not “fuzzy”. It was much bigger than a bobcat and had a large squarish head and didn’t stand very tall but its legs appeared to be unusually thick which gave it a very squat and powerful appearance. I noticed no spots or tail. As I drove on, I eventually convinced myself that my imagination had gotten the better of me. I've often wondered what it was I actually observed. My friend’s story reminded me of this. The creature I think I saw would certainly be capable of such an assault.

The second time was a couple of months ago. About an hour before sunset, I was preparing to dispatch some feral cats that I had trapped during the previous night at my house (I have some choice words for those who think they are "freeing" their cats by dumping them in the woods!!). I was entering some property just across the road from the Park. I got out of my truck to open a gate and observed a dark creature cross the highway about a quarter of a mile away. It appeared to be slightly raised up in the back and its general outline and motion actually made me think of a wolverine. I realize that wolverine’s do not exist here but for some reason that's what it made me think of and why I continued to watch it. What was curious was the way it moved, it was fast and covered about 40 yards very quickly but it didn’t seem to be trying to run, more like a smooth lope rather than a dead run. I didn't see much more than an outline and can't remember a tail but I can say it was bigger than a bobcat or coyote and did not have the shape or movement of anything I’m familiar with.
Lastly, I do occasionally hear an animal make a loud and annoying screech-like noise at night. I have always figured it was probably a bird like a heron because they make a lot of noise when they are disturbed and are forced to fly away. I could not imagine anything else that would make this awful noise.
Now I wonder???”

- Cliff XXXXXXXX


TCH Comment: Let’s take Cliff’s sightings one at a time. I will not comment on the story he shared about the TPWD personnel telling him cats come through the area from time to time. No new news there. The description he gives of a large black or greyish cat with a large square-shaped head would seem to rule out a cougar or jaguarundi as both of these cats actually have a smallish head in relation to their body size. Jaguars on the other hand, have very large heads and are considered a suspect in the black panther mystery due to the fact that they do exhibit melanism from time to time. The area in question is right on the edge of Sam Houston National Forest and the shores of Lake Livingston, an area with a history of enigmatic black cat sightings. The lack of a tail bothers me, however, and will prevent me from putting this sighting on my distribution map. To be clear, this does not mean I do not believe Cliff. I just want to keep the quality of sightings on the distribution map very high and the lack of a tail on this animal leaves open the possibility of a misidentification of some kind.

Cliff’s second sighting interests me a great deal as well. I am wondering if he did not catch a glimpse of a juvenile black bear. These bruins are slowly, but surely, returning to East Texas and sightings are becoming more common. Still, it has been so long since they have been around that people are not used to seeing them. This leaves the possibility for misidentification high should someone catch only a fleeting glimpse of one.


11/9/15

“Hey Mike, attached is a picture of a cat seen from a deer blind just North of Llano, TX yesterday (Sunday) by my co-worker. Was just curious if you might know what this is? I was thinking just a large feral house cat, but my co-worker thought it was too large....

Note the small doe in the background for reference.”

Regards,
Lang XXXXXXXX
Austin, TX


TCH Comment: Looking at the photo (below) I think Lang is likely correct and we are seeing a large domestic/feral cat. Perspective is always difficult to figure in photos taken at any kind of a distance so it is really hard to say just how big this cat might have been. The doe in the background seems close but that could be a bit of an illusion. I will say that the cat seems to have her attention, though. The body and head shape just look like a domestic/feral to me so I will not be putting this sighting on my distribution map. I would like to commend and thank Lang for being aware enough of the interest out there in these cats to get the photo from his co-worker and then sending it to me.



11/7/15

“Hi, I came across your website this morning when I searched for "Big Black Cats North Texas." Yesterday while exploring the area around Lake Nocona just northeast of Nocona, Texas, I saw a black cat crossing the road in front of me. It was smaller than a mountain lion but shaped like one. It was black and had the long, curled tail. This was not a bobcat, nor a large domestic cat. It moved like a mountain lion. The coordinates where I saw this beautiful creature are: 33.869469, -97.635031.

I'm building a home in this remote area and will be keeping my eyes and camera alerted for another sighting of this creature.

Thanks for your website and info.”

Pen XXXXXXXXX


TCH Comment: The sighting Pen describes is fairly typical of the reports I receive on a monthly basis from Texans who have seen these large black cats. Nocona is located on the northern edge of an area with a rather large cluster of sightings of large black cats. The coordinates given correspond to a spot along Oakshore Road near Lake Nocona. The area is lightly populated and has an adequate prey base and enough water to support a predator of the size described.

Again, the question of what people are seeing must be asked. Is everyone mistaken or lying? Many biologists would say that is exactly the case. I just have a hard time believing that. I would like nothing more than to validate the claims of those who have had run ins with these large black cats with proof that they exist. I strongly encourage anyone who has had any sort of big cat sighting to invest in a game camera or two. I series of photos or a short video clip might not be enough to prove the existence of these phantom cats but it might intrigue some mainstream scientists enough to get involved and at least look into the phenomenon.

I will be updating my distribution map with the sightings above soon. I will publish that here once it is updated.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Vietnam Veterans Speak About the 'Rock Ape'

I have done a few posts over the years on sightings of large, upright apes of some kind that were encountered by American servicemen during the Vietnam war. At the end of each of those posts I have asked any Vietnam veterans who might have had an experience with one of these creatures to contact me. There has not been much of a response to my request but I cannot say that I am surprised. Most of the veterans I have met over the years who did tours in Southeast Asia do not like to talk about it much, at least not with people who were not there. This is, of course, more than understandable.

I have had some response, however, for which I am very grateful. Recently, I have received three email communications from Vietnam veterans who claim to have encountered what they called rock apes. Their messages are below. I have redacted their names so as to protect their privacy.


“In ‘69 I spent my whole tour in the bush (iron triangle) One night in ambush position I had last guard duty before dawn. We were positioned on the outside edge of a tree line. About 15 minutes into my watch I heard loud movement coming from a ways in the trees. As they got closer I determined it to be a troop of monkeys. But as they got closer these were really big monkeys. They started making loud noises like they were yelling and just tearing up the jungle. As the twilight became brighter I could see trees being shook, big trees that no human would be able to shake. I had a starlight scope mounted on my 16 but was never able to get a glimpse of what they were. There was so much racket going on I wondered why the noise didn't wake any of the other guys. They kept getting closer, I wondered if they knew we were there (maybe smelt us?) but they were so close I took the safety off the daisy chained claymores and was on the edge of blowing them when all of a sudden they just quit. It was lighter now and I would have been able to see them but they just vanished back into the jungle. It was so quiet it was eerie. One thing for sure, if they got hold of a human I'm sure he would have been shredded. I've always thought about what if they got just a little bit closer how many would I have killed because I was certainly loaded for bear.”

- XXXX XXXXXX USMC


TCH Comment: The behavior described sounds like classic great ape intimidation behavior. The problem is that there are not supposed to be any apes in Vietnam.

“Rock apes are the real thing. I saw a band of them up on "Carlie Ridge" in Quang Nam Province in the spring of 1970. It was nightfall and I saw them through a Starlite scope. 10-15 of them headed away from us up a steep incline. They weren't VC because they walked as a pack side by side in the jungle and not in a military type line. They all looked to be very broad bodied and up to 5 ft tall.”

- XXXX XXXX A/1/1..USMC


TCH Comment: Whatever this soldier saw, it certainly was not VC. The broad body and height described are typical of the rock ape reports I have read.

“I spent my whole tour in the bush in Vietnam. Have seen them both alive and dead. Only thing I can say I never seen them attack anyone. Had to kill one coming into lines one night. Never thought much about them other then they were apes. Yes, they did walk upright. About four and half to five tall. Saw them mostly around the Rock Pile. Heard a lot of different story about them in Nam. Like the throwing of rocks but never seen that myself. In my unit I would say that over 3/4 of the guys have seen them. As much as us Marines smell they were worse.”

- Anonymous, USMC


TCH Comment: I wish this marine had taken a picture of that dead ape. What he says about not thinking much about them other than they were apes is something that has been echoed many times. Most of the G.I.’s in Vietnam were very young and not up on what wildlife makes southeast Asia home. They simply did not know what they were encountering was not a species documented by science.

I have presented these emails exactly as they were sent to me. The stories are very similar to others I have been told or read about. The descriptions of appearance, behavior and even smell are very similar to those given by people across the globe who claim to have encountered large, bipedal, hair-covered “apes.”

Is there an unknown species of great ape or some kind of Wildman roaming the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia? Perhaps, time will tell. Until then, we have the anecdotal accounts of our servicemen to ponder.

Make of them what you will.