Panther roaming the hills of southeast Ohio?

Jeffery FrischkornNext time someone tells Steve Myers that Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and E.T. are all alive, well and residing in Ohio the Ashtabula County man will nod his head “yes.”

Myers spent the opener of Ohio’s firearms deer-hunting season checking out the hills, valleys and ravines of northwest Guernsey County. On the Sunday before the opener Myers was talking with the owner of an adjoining piece of property.

As Myers put it, the elderly man asked if the deer hunter had come across a black panther, as if such encounters are commonplace in southeast Ohio.

Not wanting to embarrass or insult the elderly gentleman – after all, Myers intended to use a portion of opening day hunting the man’s property – he graciously said “no” without rolling his eyes.

However, Myers became a believer while on a Sunday stroll he came upon – you guessed it – a black panther.

“I wasn’t but maybe 40 yards from it,” Myers said. “The animal didn’t pay any attention to me. It was hunting.”

Myers described the animal as perhaps weighing around 50 or more pounds, deep-rich black and lean.

“It was very healthy-looking,” Myers said.

Yet while the probability of a black panther roaming the aged hills of southeast Ohio is remote, it is still possible.

Especially since similar reports of a black panther have made their rounds elsewhere in the region.

“I have not heard of anything in Guernsey County but we have taken reports of a black panther in Washington County and another one in Belmont County,” said Tom Donnelly, acting supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District Four (southeast Ohio) Office in Athens.

While Donnelly says he’s not doubting that a large, silky-black panther really exists in his neck of the woods, there just isn’t any hard evidence to confirm such sightings.

Especially in this day and age when hunters use trail cameras with almost reckless abandon, says Donnelly, who also once served as the state wildlife officer assigned Ashtabula County.

“You can hardly walk in the woods anymore without having your picture taken with a trail camera,” Donnelly said.

What the agency will do, Donnelly says, is log Myer’s sighting along with the ones from Washington and Belmont counties.

Perhaps the agency will then place these sightings in its own version of the “X Files.”

Some speculation runs that such an animal may be either an escapee from a private owner’s animal compound or perhaps deliberately released as Ohio begins a new chapter on regulating the possession of exotic wildlife.

Categories: Ohio – Jeffrey Frischkorn

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