Tigers in the Suburbs?

panther— By most accounts, the big cat population in upstate New York was eliminated by the early 20th century; how then to explain a series of eyewitness reports of seeing them there, in particular large black cats?  The mountain lion is believed to be the only large cat to exist freely in the U.S.–Are people seeing an escaped exotic pet?

It’s MonsterQuest to the rescue, setting up thermal-sensing cameras and sending out decoy calls to lure the elusive cats!  As usual, deer, raccoon, squirrels, and even lynx were detected by the cameras.  The cameras revealed food sources sufficient to support a large cat.  More intriguingly, claw marks were found on a tree, and tracks were found that match those of the leopard…

…additionally, more lions and tigers are believed to be in private ownership than exist in zoos!  The first leopard arrived in the United States in 1768, with the first tigers brought in in 1806.  Sadly, there is little or no regulation by most states on the private ownership of exotic animals.  An animal who is fun when adopted as a cub grows up to be a predator, and “there is no such thing as a tame wild animal.”

MonsterQuest additionally performed a DNA analysis of 30 captive tigers, finding that over half showed moderate to severe inbreeding; this leads to increased genetic abnormalities which in turn can cause behavioral abnormalities, including increased aggression.  Such aggression can lead to cases like that cited by MonsterQuest of a couple hiking that were attacked and mauled by a large cat in January of 2007.

The conclusion of the MonsterQuest team was that big cats are out there in the eastern United States, but are not easily found…and as the poet once wrote, “If called by a panther,/don’t answer!”


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3 Comments on “Tigers in the Suburbs?”

  1. Carycomic Says:

    If New York State is experiencing a case of feral pet leopards (similar to Great Britain, perhaps), this raises some very disturbing questions.

    1) Could the inbreeding result in anomalous feeding habits, like exsanguination (a la “the Vampire Beast” of North Carolina)?

    2) Could the eastward-migrating cougars recently documented in the Great Lakes region interbreed with these leopards? That is; should the former make it back to their ancestral stomping grounds?

    3) Could that eastward migration have been spurred by competition from Mexican jaguars recently-returned to the continental U.S.?*

    *I remember reading in grade school how jaguars were once native to prehistoric Tennessee!

  2. Brad Cooper Says:

    It was a way back in the early 1980’s, but my friend and I saw, without any doubt, a black panther in the woods in Windsor, New York (upstate near Binghamton). It walked and looked exactly like the cat in the video in this episode. It was walking on a long stone wall, about 50 feet from us. We couldn’t have been more scared. It was not a dog, not a housecat, not a bobcat. Most definately a black panther.

    The “experts” in this episode are mostly morons, esp. the guy from Johns Hopkins in Maryland talking out some kind of religious fear that drives people to think they see a black cat when they really see some other color. wow, he’s the nut case here.


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