Saturday, April 15, 2017

I'm Back and People Are Still Seeing Black Panthers

Before moving forward, I want to apologize for my lack of posting over the last year. To say I have been inactive would be a massive understatement. Life has been crazy and, I must admit, it has not all been a good kind of crazy. Not at all. That being said, I am blessed. I hope to be getting back to blogging on an, at least, semi-regular basis starting right now.

While life has been crazy, part of my exile has been self-imposed. I am still heavily involved with the NAWAC and much has been going on with the organization. I feel strongly we are closer than ever to making some ground-breaking discoveries. Also, what free time I have had left after job, family and NAWAC obligations has been eaten up by my book project. I am writing a book on the black panther phenomenon in Texas and the American South. While there is much work left to do – it is tough writing in fits and spurts - I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am hoping to complete the book this summer but much of the heavy lifting has been done already and I should be able to give the blog the attention it deserves.

So, thank you for sticking with me. I really appreciate it. Now, on to the subject at hand: black panther sightings.

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…


4/15/17


“My brother just showed me a video of a large black cat approximately 2' x 5'at a distance of 80 yards shot with his phone. Broad daylight, sunning and bathing itself the cat was not intimidated by the bull dozer my brother was sitting on. It only moved when he dismounted the tractor and began walking towards it. Very muscular and without a doubt a cat, it was jet black. I would love to share this video to wildlife people that tell me they are not here. Location South of I20 mile marker 571 Winona, TX.”

- Justice P.



TCH Comment: This is an interesting account and the claim of video evidence is intriguing; however, no video accompanied the report. Justice, if you see this post, please email me a copy of the video. I would love to inspect it. If it is too large to email, contact me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com and we can make arrangements for a different type of file transfer. I will hold off on adding this report to my black panther distribution map until I can get a look at that video.



4/14/17

“6 yrs. ago I saw a large black cat moving down my fence line. My four donkeys were fixated watching it. At first I thought it was a dog, then a pig but I then saw a long black tail. I was certain it was a cat. I called Texas Fish and Game and was told there are no panthers in Texas and it must have been a house cat. Several of my neighbors have seen a black cat or (2) in the immediate area. I live outside of Mount Calm.”

- Anonymous



TCH Comment: Mount Calm is a small town of approximately 320 people in Hill County. For the most part, the county is rural and farming and ranching dominate the economy. With only about 35,000 people in an county encompassing 986 square miles, there is plenty of room for a big cat to pass through or stay for long periods of time undiscovered. Hill County has also been the origin of several other reports of large black cats over the last several years. I really do not find any reason not to believe this witness and will add the sighting to my distribution map.


3/14/17

“I live in the southern tip of Lampasas county, 2 miles from Burnet county line. I travel BCR 223 every morning and evening going to work and back. Back in November 2016 at 05:30 I was travelling down 223 near the Lampasas river and 3 half grown black jaguars stepped out of the brush and trotted down the road for about 75 feet and exited toward the river. If my son had not been with me to verify, I think most people would have thought I was full of BS......scary out there sometimes.”

- Edmundo Lanehausen



TCH Comment: This report seems too good to be true but I have had other reports of multiple cats running together that I found to be credible. I would, however, like to hear more about this sighting and, if possible, speak to not only Edmundo but his son who also saw the cats. I will hold off on placing this sighting on my distribution map until, and unless, I hear back from Edmundo.

2/28/17

“I live in Granbury Texas, and have seen a very large black cat by my house two times in the past month. He was behind a 2-1/2 foot wall the first time sitting down and I only saw his head and upper shoulders. He was about 20 feet from my backdoor. A couple days later I saw him standing in my neighbors yard and he was about the size of a Great Dane. (I used to have a Dane so I know their size). He was black and marble colored (but that could have been because he was part in shadow of a lot of trees). He had a very long tail (posted this a few minutes ago, but forgot to name the town I live in).”

- Anonymous



TCH Comment: Granbury serves as the county seat of Hood County which has a population of only 41,000 people (98 per square mile) as of the 2000 census. The county sits just south of the Fort Worth half of the ever expanding D-FW Metroplex but retains much of its rural character once away from the I-35 W corridor. There has been at least one credible sighting of a large, black, long-tailed cat just north of Grandview outside of Alvarado. I find the description of the animal as “marble-colored” interesting. The witness admits this could have been an illusion created by light conditions but could it not also be a result of spots/rosettes being visible under a black coat as is seen in melanistic jaguars? If the witness is accurate with their description of size this is clearly no house cat. Likewise, if the witness is accurate and he was only 20-feet from the animal there should be no reason to think he mistook a dog for a cat. I will be adding this report to my distribution map.




2/21/17

“I was driving back from Shipley donuts around 6:00 a.m. through Old Settlers Park. I noticed a larger animal drinking from the creek where you first pass the Dell Diamond (a minor league baseball park – TCH note). As my car got closer, he raised his head to look at me. Huge saucer eyes. No visible ears like a bobcat. He turned and ran up a large oak. He had to of been 6-feet long. Also had a long snake like tail. This was no bobcat. When I told the park ranger. He kinda laughed me off like I was nuts. But I know what I saw.”

- Jon Wyatt



TCH Comment: At first glance this area seems to be a highly unlikely area for a big cat sighting of any kind. I will admit my first instinct was to put this one down as a case of mistaken identity and move on. I recalled, however, that I had a sighting reported to me from the same general area not too long prior to receiving Jon’s account. I filed that one away as a misidentification and never even mentioned it on the site. Maybe I was too hasty. Upon close inspection of the area, Brushy Creek runs just south of Old Settlers Park back to the east/northeast until it meets up with the San Gabriel River. There is a dense greenbelt that runs along the creek all the way out of Round Rock. Once out of town, the area east of Round Rock becomes extremely rural and lightly populated very quickly. I feel it is not outside of the realm of possibility that Jon saw exactly what he claims he saw. His description of an animal with a very long body and long tail that leapt into a tree certainly proves, if nothing else, that this was no dog. The reaction of the park ranger rings true to me as well. I am going to place this sighting on my distribution map despite the urban location of the event. The fact that two people in that immediate area reported seeing a ‘panther’ just weeks apart tells me something might have been going on in Old Settlers Park back in February.


2/17/17

“I'm in Centerville and 3 times have we spotted what we believe is a black panther. Mom saw it once dad saw it once they described it has a giant black cat with a long tail that walked real slow along the fence line picking up from legs really high. Today 2/17/17 I saw it for the first time running across the street. Bigger then a 60 pound dog and twice as long with a tail that drags the ground black as night. In only about 40 minutes from you probably.”

- Brandon Brison



TCH Comment: Centerville sits in Leon County in what is generally considered the easternmost portions of central Texas. The area just to the east of Centerville has yielded multiple reports of large black cats. The report is consistent with those I have heard from others in the area. I will be adding the sighitng to my distribution map. Brandon, if you see this, you are correct, I am only an hour west of you. I would love to sit down and talk to you and your folks about your sightings. If you are interested, email me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com.



11/18/16

“I just witnessed a large black cat I could only describe as a black panther near Rio Medina about 30 miles west of San Antonio. I just left the house to walk my dog and the cat was sitting about 25 yards from me and it just sat there and we looked at each other for about a minute before it decided to leave. I have seen bob cat and mountain lions before and this cat was much larger than a bob cat closer to the size of a mountain lion with a tail similar to the mountain lion but it was all black. Needless to say I feel like I just witnessed an animal most never see and chances are I will never see again.”

- Anonymous



TCH Comment: Rio Medina is an unincorporated community in Medina County, Texas. The community sits adjacent to the Medina River. The county encompasses 1,335 square miles and has a population density, as of the 2000 census, of only 30 people per square mile. To say there is not much going on out this area would be an understatement. It is a rugged and arid area that is sparsely populated and in which a big cat should be able to thrive and remain undetected. The sighting report itself is very believable and mirrors what has been reported by many others. The area just west of San Antonio has yielded numerous sightings of large, black, long-tailed cats over the last several years. I will be adding this sighting to my distribution map. 

Reports of these large, black, long-tailed cats continue to flow in to my inbox on a regular basis. I strongly believe that people are seeing a living animal. Please continue to forward reports of sightings to me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. You never know, yours might be the report that breaks this mystery wide open.

*If you would 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.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Important Reminder

*ANNOUNCEMENT/REMINDER* - Just a reminder that posting, emailing or tweeting me photos is granting me permission to publish them in any one of multiple formats (Facebook, Twitter, Book, Magazine, etc.). Proper photo credit will be given whenever possible. If you wish to share a photo with me but do not want it published, state that and I will certainly honor your request.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Oklahoma "Black Panther" Photo Examined

Over the holidays, I received an email from a gentleman named Cade ***** (he provided his last name but I am withholding it). Attached to the email was a very intriguing photograph. According to Cade, the photograph was taken by a game camera in Oklahoma. The camera actually belongs to a friend of Cade’s and was deployed on his deer lease. The photograph in question features a, seemingly, large and muscular mystery animal with a long tail. The head of the animal is down and partially obscured by tall grass which makes positive identification difficult. Cade found the photo interesting and felt that it might show a “black panther.” He did a bit of research online and that is what led him to me.


I found the photo very interesting and was, initially, quite excited by it. Clearly the animal is solid black and has a long tail. At first glance, the body of the creature seemed very cat-like and “slinky” with a big chest and tapered abdomen. The neck appears thick and strong and the ear that is partially visible seems to stand up in a manner that is reminiscent of a cat. Could this finally be it, a photograph of the long-tailed black cat so commonly referred to as a black panther here in the South? I asked Cade to go back to his friend in an attempt to get more details on the photo. Where was it taken? How high was the camera set? What was the approximate distance between the camera and the animal? Could I get a copy of the original uncropped/non-zoomed photo? What was the brand/model of the camera? There were other questions but you get the idea.

As I waited for Cade to get back to me, I continued to pour over the photo. While still intrigued, I began to have some doubts as to whether or not the animal in the picture was a cat. I showed the photo to some friends of mine who are experienced hunters and outdoorsmen and know their wildlife. Their responses were a bit mixed and raised even more questions in my mind. I will briefly touch on my concerns below.

First, the “slinky” build that I initially felt looked cat-like is really anything but. I started pulling up and inspecting photos of big cats, particularly cougars and jaguars which are found in the Americas. The tapered body seen in the photograph is actually not the norm at all for these two species. This is key as IF there is a black big cat of some sort roaming North America, it is highly likely to be a melanistic jaguar or cougar (I realize that no black cougars have ever been documented. I include a melanistic, or very dark, cougar as a suspect based simply on the size most often reported by people claiming to have seen black panthers, which closely matches the size of adult cougars, and the fact that this is one of the two big cats native to North America). What I found is that, most of the time, both jaguars and cougars are very thick and do not show much, if any, taper from their chest to their abdomen/pelvis. Below you can see a sampling of photos of both jaguars and cougars where this is evident. It is true that some of these big cats do, on occasion, exhibit this tapering but it seems to be the exception and seen most often in very young, very old or sick animals. I expanded my search to other big cats of the world and found the same thing to be true.



The second, and biggest, concern I have is also anatomical in nature. The animal in the photo is clearly a male. That, in and of itself, is not an issue; but, as I thought back on photos of cats of all shapes and sizes I have seen over the years, I could not recall seeing a penis sheath in any of the photos. I, myself, have captured many photos of bobcats via trail camera, surely some of them were males, but never could I say for sure based solely on the picture. I did some research and the reason for this became clear, the genitalia of a male cat is, for lack of a better term, seated differently than that of a canine. I believe the diagrams below illustrate this perfectly.


The photo of the African lion below clearly shows the anatomical characteristics of these big cats. No reproductive organs are seen directly below the pelvis/abdomen; however, the testicles can clearly be seen under the tail. Compare this photo to that of a male Great Dane. The penis sheath is clearly visible under the abdomen/pelvis of the dog. The animal in the game camera photo clearly exhibits a penis sheath like that of a dog. This anatomical feature is simply not present in cats of any size. That being the case, the animal in this photo cannot be a mountain lion, jaguar, jaguarundi or any other type of cat.


As much as I would like to think the Oklahoma photo is a big cat of some kind, the facts simply do not bear this out. Based on the evidence at hand, the only logical conclusion I can make is that this is a photo of a dog of some kind. It appears to be quite a robust dog, but a dog, none the less. The dog’s build (big chest and narrow abdomen), long curled up tail, pointed ears, dark color and thick neck actually remind me quite a bit of my Dutch Shepherd. Unlike the dog in the Oklahoma photo, my Dutch is a female which makes comparing the location and appearance of reproductive organs impossible. Even so, the build, ears, neck and tail are very similar. My dog weighs in at 60 lbs. and stands about 24” high. I will admit that the animal in the Oklahoma photo appears more robust and bigger than the shepherd in the photo below; however, it must be remembered that there is nothing in the photo to provide scale and this could be an illusion. The bottom line, however, is that the animal in the Oklahoma photo is almost certainly a dog.


I would love to be proven wrong on this, somehow, but the anatomy is just not right as it does not match that of any known cat. Some might argue that black panthers are not a known species; therefore, comparing their anatomy to known cats is not a valid way of reaching a conclusion. My response to that opinion would simply be that whatever black panthers are, they are cats. That being the case, it is not an unreasonable hypothesis to think their anatomy is similar to that of the other cats inhabiting our planet.

While I was disappointed that the animal in this photo turned out to be a dog, I am greatly encouraged that Cade was able to find me and submit the picture for inspection. This is occurring more and more often which tells me that my site is popping up on Google and other search engines when people query “black panthers.” I am very hopeful that the photo we are all waiting for will eventually be captured.

Let us hope it is soon.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Historical "Gorilla" Account From Sherman, Texas

I love accounts of "monsters," "gorillas," and "wild men." I find sighting reports prior to 1967 - the year the Patterson-Gimlin footage was captured - especially interesting as "bigfoot" was not yet embedded in everyone's consciousness. Below is an account from the Sherman Democrat that was originally printed in the July 20, 1960 edition. It is one more piece evidence that proves sightings of wood ape-like creatures predate the famous Patterson-Gimlin footage.

Huge Ape Reported Seen At Blue Creek

By WILLIE JACOBS
Democrat Staff Writer
(July 20, 1960)

BLUE CREEK- Is there a gorilla loose near this small community?

J.O. Conrad, his wife and son, who live here three miles east of Sherman on Highway 82, say they saw "a seven-foot gorilla or some kind of monster" Monday night near their home. His story came to light only Friday.

The animal has been reported seen near Bells by one other person. Some people merely shake their heads and smile at the story while others stand behind Conrad's report.

Gorilla or not the citizens of Blue Creek are keeping their doors locked tight and firearms handy.

Conrad said he had just gone to bed Monday night about 10:30 or 11. "I was smoking a cigarette when the dog started barking," he said. " I looked out the east window and saw him, He looked to be seven feet tall and about three feet wide across the back. He stood upright but hunched over."

At first glimpse Conrad said he thought it might be a man walking through his yard. "Then I saw it was too big to be a man," he explained. "I jumped out of bed and got my flashlight and gun." Mrs. Conrad and their son, James, 13, watched the creature from the bedroom window.

Conrad said he stepped off his front porch toward the animal and fired three times. "I know I hit him at least once. but he didn't even flinch. That's when I went after my shotgun," Conrad said.

Mrs. Conrad called the sheriff's office in Sherman. Deputies warned against shooting the animal, afraid a bullet wound would cause it to attack.

"I fired the shotgun over his head, but he didn't run, just shuffled of to the east down the side of the highway," Conrad continued. "I jumped in my car and followed. I got a real good look at him in my headlights while I was following him.

"He looked black as coal. He was real hairy except for his face," he said. "I was about 20 feet from him when I shot, and I didn't try to get closer. I was scared."

All the way to the Blue Creek bottom, a few hundred yards east of the community, Conrad said the animal swayed and shuffled slowly along on his back legs. "His front legs were just hanging down and swinging around," he said.

After the animal went into the underbrush at the creek, Conrad said he gave up the search, afraid to follow the beast in the brush.

Mrs. Curtis Wilson, who lives about 100 yards east of Conrad across the highway, said she and her husband were awakened shortly before Conrad saw the animal. "We heard something rattling around in the shrubbery beside the house, and our two dogs were going crazy," Mrs. Wilson said. "Then we heard something thump against the house and the dogs hushed, just like they had been turned off."

When her husband went outside, Mrs. Wilson said the dogs were cowering in a corner on the porch and "shaking just like somebody had whipped them."

At the same time, Mrs. Wilson said the Wilson's cows hehind the house had begun an uproar. The Wilson's first thought of a wolf. "Then we heard Mr. Conrad shooting and my husband got his deer rifle. But by the time he got out to the highway, whatever it was had gone into the creek bottom brush," she said.

Mrs. Wilson said most of the people living near the community had kept their dooors locked since. Conrad said his wife was so scared that she did not go to sleep the rest of the night and had to have medical treatment the next day.

W.B. Thompson of 716 S. Burdette, Sherman was working the same night at an all-night station in the Star community between Bells and Denison. He said a man drove into the station for gas and told him he had just seen a large, strange-looking animal along the roadside near Bells. Thompson did not get the man's name.

Conrad said that as he started to follow the beast in his car another car came down the highway approaching the animal from behind. "That fellow must have seen the gorilla because he threw on his brakes and almost stopped at the side of the animal. Then he stepped on it and got out of there. I thought he would stop and help me, but he must of been scared, too."

Grayson Sheriff's Deputy James Spaugh answered Mrs. Conrad's call for help. He said that as far as he is concerned "Conrad definitely saw something and it wasn't a man."

Next morning Conrad took his wife to the doctor. When he returned around noon, he could find no tracks on the hard dry ground. "Some men who work around here had drug a wrecked car over the spot where I saw that thing standing. There weren't any tracks left," he said.

Conrad said he had never seen a gorilla before. "I looked in my dictionary the next morning and found one. I know I saw a gorilla," he said.


At the suggestion of a possible hunt for the beast in the Blue Creek bottom, Conrad said: "With that gorilla down there? Not me, buddy. I'm scared."

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How You Can Help in the Black Panther Project : Cameras Needed

Faithful followers,

I want to thank all of you for following and reading my musings, opinions and findings here on the Texas Cryptid Hunter blog. Despite the fact that my postings have been sporadic (that’s putting it mildly) and do not occur as often as years past, the reach of the blog continues to grow. I am both thrilled and humbled by this and want to thank each of you that stops by from time to time.

I also want to make an appeal to you…

As even casual readers of the blog know, I am deeply interested in the “black panther” phenomenon. I regularly investigate sightings, speak to witnesses and take sighting reports of these anomalous, large, long-tailed cats that are not supposed to exist. I have posted game cameras across the state at different times but, so far, have not been able to capture that conclusive photo that would prove – to me at least – that these cats exist. Over the years, my ability to put out game cameras has become more limited. Floods, age, normal wear and tear and theft have taken a huge toll on my camera arsenal. I am now down to only three working units. I have at least four property owners who claim to have had sightings of large black cats who are open to my posting cameras on their property. I just do not have enough cameras to do this.

Here comes the appeal…

Let me be clear, I AM NOT ASKING FOR MONEY. What I am asking is, if you have a game camera sitting in the top of your closet, out in the storage shed or on a shelf in the garage collecting dust, would you consider donating your camera to me for use in the black panther project? It would be put to good use and allow me to rebuild my camera arsenal much faster than I otherwise could.

Please understand, I cannot guarantee the safe return of your camera. As outlined above, floods, age, normal wear and tear and theft are distinct possibilities. That being the case, it would be best if you would consider the camera a true donation that would become my property upon receipt. I would like to honor any donors by identifying the camera using your name. Any photos it captured would be credited to the appropriate donated camera.

If you have a camera that you are interested in donating, please contact me via email at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com.

Thanks,

Mike

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New Black Panther Reports From Texas

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…


9/22/16

“I hope this goes through.

My sighting was at 10:45 PM on the 22nd of September outside of Boerne at White Oak Trail Road.. It was less than 20 yards in front of my car. My late model Mercedes has Halogen lights, it turned the driveway from night to day where in front of me was, what I believe now to be a Black Jaguar just walking up the driveway toward the house. Total sighting time was 3.5-4 seconds. It was at least 29 inches high, the girth was at least 12-14 inches across the back between the hind end. The cat turned slightly right about 10-15 degrees, never saw the head but estimated its length a good 4.5-5+ feet long not including its very bushy tail end about 3.5+ feet long turned up at the end about 5-7 inches above the ground. I estimated the weight to be 120-150 lbs but thinking back it may be larger.

The lady down the road reported the same sighting and size. She was about 200' from the animal and it was just dusk outside her electric fence. The sighting about three years ago about dusk a couple spotted the same size animal eating a deer kill on the side of the stream they were canoeing in. I called in my sighting to the Texas Parks & Wildlife, Katherin McCoy. She asked me to have the other person contact her, which the lady did. She has golden retrievers. Her male is 24 inches tall and her description to me was that the black cat was much larger and longer.

Since there were no photos the TPWD pretty much was surprised with the sightings and have recorded the eyewitness accounts. It’s been many decades since the last sightings in this general area and I'm sure the TPWD is skeptical.”

- Gary Fi



TCH Comment: This is an interesting report. I did do some digging and there is a TPWD employee named Katherin McCoy in the area of the alleged sighting. I am in the process of trying to contact her now.

The size of the cat described is really big. Jaguars, of course, can reach the size of the cat reported; though, jags this size are usually found more in Central and South America while the Mexican jaguars tend to be smaller in size.

Boerne is the county seat of Kendall County in South-Central Texas. It is an area where mountain lion sightings drift in from time to time. The Guadalupe River flows toward the Gulf of Mexico just to the north of town and could provide food, water and cover enough for, if nothing else, a transient cat. There have been at least four credible black panther reports from the area surrounding Boerne. While I feel it is possible the witness might have overestimated the size of the cat – though, maybe not – he did supply his real name, the name of the TPWD employee to whom the sighting was reported and other details that hoaxers, generally, do not. I will be adding the sighting to my distribution map for the time being. If Ms. McCoy gets back to me and disputes the claims of the witness, I will reconsider.



9/19/16

“This morning at around 5:15am in Round Rock, Tx, my husband was walking our dog and spotted a large sleek black cat weighing around 50 lbs. Later that day a neighbor reported that an owl was found injured outside of his apartment. We live in the La Frontera section of Round Rock.”

- Donna J******



TCH Comment: At first glance, the location of this alleged sighting would seem an unlikely spot to see any type of large wildlife. The greater Austin area, however, is unlike almost anywhere else I have ever been. There remain large green areas and riparian corridors that intermingle with suburbia. Deer and hogs are a continual presence in the area of the sighting location. The Colorado River winds through the area only 10-12 miles to the S-SW, Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Preserve is less than 20 miles to the west. This area is heavily populated along the I-35 corridor but gets lonesome pretty quickly to the west. Having said all of that, I think it is very possible this lady’s husband saw an extremely large domestic/feral. I could very well be wrong, of course, but feel this is the most likely scenario for this specific heavily populated area. As for the injured owl, a domestic/feral could very well be the culprit and I cannot automatically assume these two separate events are related. I will not be placing this report on my distribution map for those reasons.


9/4/16

“Just this afternoon (9/4/16) at about 3:30, a large black cat crossed the road in front of me. This occurred on LCR 377 at Lake Mexia where the road crosses over Cedar Creek. It was larger than my 55-pound dog but very thin, black, with a very long tail. If it had not been pure black and so thin, I would have thought it was a cougar so my gut reaction was 'black panther'. I was driving slowly already when I came around the curve right before the bridge. The cat was crossing slowly as well and looked up at me. I could not see its features, however, the shape of its head was unmistakably cat like. I googled black cats of Texas and did look at pictures of jaguarundis. While the body and tail shapes were very similar, the head was not and this cat seemed to be much larger. I had always heard these black cats had roamed this area long ago as well as rumors of sightings in the recent past. Very exciting to now be a part of the gang!”

- Shelley



TCH Comment: Mexia is a small town in Limestone County. It sits right in the area where what is considered Central Texas begins to give way to the region considered to be East Texas. The area is very rural and sparsely populated. As of the 2010 census, only 7,459 people lived in Mexia. As a matter of fact, less than 25,000 people live in all of Limestone County. There is an ample prey base of deer, feral hogs and smaller mammals, plenty of water and cover in the area. Numerous reports of large cats have come from this vicinity. I find the report credible and will be adding the sighting to my distribution map. I feel strongly that Limestone County may one day prove to be the area that yields proof of the existence of large, black, long-tailed cats in Texas. One last interesting side note, Mexia High School’s mascot is “black cats.” Coincidence?



8/25/16

“I live in east Montgomery County, TX. I have 5 acres and it's pretty wooded all around us. Several nights now I have seen a large animal (cat like) but I don't see its face. I found a paw print that scared me. I'm not sure what to do. I have ducks, dogs a cat and horse outside plus I'm a mother of 5 small children.”

- Julianne H*******



TCH Comment: Montgomery County sites in SE Texas and contains a large part of the Sam Houston National Forest. The area has been the source of more than one anomalous big cat report in the past. I know there are big cats in the area as I have personally seen a mountain lion (tawny-colored) near the Stubblefield area. Julianne did not send any photos of the tracks she found so it is impossible to say if they are the tracks of a big cat. I am quite curious to know if the sightings have continued. Julianne, if you see this, please email me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com and let me know if you would be interested in having a couple of game cameras posted on your property. I do not feel you should be too concerned about your children’s safety. Just supervise your kids as you normally would and all should be fine. If the animal was going to be aggressive toward you or your family, chances are, you would know it by now. For the time being, I am going to leave this sighting off my distribution map. This is not because I do not believe Julianne; rather, it is due to the simple fact that her description is pretty short on details. “Cat-like” is pretty vague. I would like to hear more about estimated size, weight, appearance, length of tail, etc. before adding it to the map.


8/1/16

“I would have never thought to report big cat sightings. In the late 1970's we lived on our farm in Shelby County near Tenaha and Flat Fork Creek. We had what was referred to as a black panther. It had a routine of coming through our property about every 6 weeks. We heard it screaming when it was in our area. I am again living on property in Shelby County near Tenaha. Hilliard Creek runs through my property leading to Flat Fork Creek. Two years ago I saw a large black cat with a long tail on Easter morning twice. I have seen a bobcat with babies in my area before. This was definitely larger. I have a neighbor that reports seeing a large black cat (panther) and a tawny mountain lion on his properly on the same day. So any.idea what it is that we call a black panther.”

- Martha B*******-*****



TCH Comment: Martha’s point of view – that large, black, long-tailed cats are nothing overly unusual – is one shared by many people living in East Texas. They are simply considered another animal that lives in the woods and bottoms. While not common, they are not thought of as unusual either. Her comments on hearing a big cat scream is a common refrain as well. It is true that many people misidentify “screams” in the woods. More often than not, it is probably a fox that is heard (they can make a terrible racket). Having said that, I cannot discount Martha’s account as the auditory report is backed up by two visuals. Clearly, Martha knows what a bobcat looks like and seems sure that is not what she saw on that Easter Sunday. Shelby County sits in deep East Texas and has yielded multiple reports of “black panthers” over the years as well as one very intriguing photo of an unusually dark cougar stalking a deer at a feeder. As for the questions, “Any idea what it is we call a black panther?” That is the million dollar question isn’t it? I am doing my best to find out. I will be adding this account to my distribution map.


7/31/16

“I bought ~31 acres almost 2 years ago, 4 miles east of Ben Wheeler TX., 3.5 miles west of Edom on Hwy 279. Early on, I heard the cat's screams at night that sounded like a child or woman crying. I found paw prints (attaching) and started asking neighbors about it. There is a history of locals seeing a large black cat near this property. Nobody has lived on this property in 30-40 years, I am told.

I started walking the property to get it fenced & cross fenced once the screaming stopped. Presuming the cat had left the area. One of the men I was dealing & I went down in a gorge and found the den. He said he thought it was active. He's in the pic & stands over 6' tall. The den opening is about 4'x4'... It has its own pond near the den. It's a very dense wooded area - a gorge - when you climb the hill, it comes out to either a front open area of my land beside the other neighbor’s house or behind his house which opens to a big field. Lots of woods to east of it.

My neighbors across the road said they saw a large black animal moving across the field like a cat moves (forgot to ask about the tail) ... They insisted it moved like a large cat, not at all like a dog & then disappeared into my woods at the same point that I found the den.

About 6 weeks ago, I was thinking of putting in one more cross fence to the NE of that pond... Walked with a fencer through area & found a flutter of what looked like chicken feathers on ground.... So I figured it was back. About 3 weeks ago was brush hogging front area near back of neighbor’s house just over the "ridge" of that gorge... Felt like I was being watched & looked up into trees & saw a large black animal & it immediately leaped like a cat down into the gorge right where the den is.

I'd like the thing caught & taken to a zoo or refuge... Far better than having to shoot it if it starts attacking baby calves or my dogs... I’m not crazy about going back in there to set up a game camera since seeing it as I live alone with my dogs... & can't safely watch for it with a gun & hang a camera up at same time. I'm going to try to set one up near top of ridge but it'd be better to set in the gorge to see what we are dealing with. It's definitely a large black cat.

Any suggestions on any group that could assist?”

- Karen R*****



TCH Comment: This is an intriguing report and one that I am interested in investigating further. Karen is sure that what she saw was a cat of some kind. The fact that the property was uninhabited for 30-40 years adds to the intrigue. It is very possible that wildlife has become very comfortable there due to the lack of any human presence. Ben Wheeler sits in Van Zandt County in East Texas just SE of Canton. The area has yielded big cat sightings before. Karen, if you see this, please email me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com and let me know if you would be open to my visiting the property and posting a couple of cameras. I will be adding this sighting to my distribution map.



7/29/16

“I live in River Oaks, Texas. Zip code 76114. The Trinity River runs directly beside my next door neighbor’s house. There is a small amount of woods between their house and the Trinity River. A couple of weeks ago they had a large black cat the size of a large dog that was posted up on their back porch watching their house cats and their daughter through the back sliding glass door on their house. They said it stayed there for a couple of hours. They are afraid to come out of their house.”

- Anonymous



TCH Comment: This is a very interesting report and the behavior described has been seen before. River Oaks sits in Tarrant County just NW of Fort Worth. Lake Worth, where all sorts of weird things have been reported, sits just to the west. The area gets pretty rural and lonesome pretty fast just west of River Oaks. I am sure many of you have seen photos and videos on the internet of a mountain lion sitting on a deck or porch and looking into a home, usually at a pet, through a glass door. The length of time the cat stayed around seems like a long time but I have never been in that situation before so I cannot say that with any degree of certainty. What I do feel strongly about is that if the cat did hang around on the porch that long, someone would have taken a photograph. Based on the fact that this is a second hand account and that no photo was provided, I will be leaving the report off my distribution map. If the actual family that witnessed the cat on their porch or a photo is produced, I will reconsider the status of the report.

Reports of these large, black, long-tailed cats continue to flow in to my inbox on a weekly basis. I strongly believe that people are seeing a living animal. Please continue to forward reports of sightings to me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. You never know, yours might be the report that breaks this mystery wide open.

*If you would 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.

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.