Black panther on the prowl in Stokes?
Jessica Johnson Interim editor
Stokes County residents were on the lookout this week, after after multiple sightings of a “large black cat” were reported by the sheriff’s office. The Stokes County Sheriff’s Office issued a public safety statement on Oct. 18, regarding the sightings of what they described as a black panther, followed by an additional public safety message on Oct. 22, determining the sightings were best described as a “large black cat.” No known injuries or physical contact has been made with the animal.
Panther sightings have been reported in the areas of Mooresprings Rd, Hall Rd., Reynolds Rd., and Sheppard Mill Rd.
A photo originally released by the sheriff’s office was later determined not to be legitimate, and was from a source outside of Stokes County.
The Stokes County Sheriff’s Office issued the following statement: “Authorities have received several reports of sightings of a black panther in Stokes County. After receiving several of these reports from various citizens, along with a photograph confirmation, Sheriff Marshall wishes for our citizens to be made aware of the sighting locations and to encourage ALL Citizens to always practice safety if encountering any type of wild animal like this. The sighting reports have thus far been in the areas of Mooresprings Road, Hall Road, Reynolds Road and Sheppard Mill Road of Stokes County. No known injuries or physical contact has been reported with these sightings”
In a statement released on Oct. 22, Sheriff Marshall stated he felt it necessary to issue the Public Safety Message “due to the fact that the type of animal originally described was not common in this area, and his fear was that possibly someone who may have had a caged animal like this, could have possibly released it unlawfully.” Sheriff Marshall wanted to make the public aware of the reported sightings that had been received.
The sheriff’s office strongly advises citizens not to approach the panther or any wild animal, but to immediately call Stokes County E911 Communications at 336-593-8139, or N.C. Wildlife at 1-800-662-7137 to make a report.
Sergeant Carey Bostic with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, who serves as supervisor/wildlife sergeant for Yadkin, Stokes, and Forsyth Counties, said although it was “not impossible” for a panther or large wild cat to be in the area, it is “not indiginous to the area…and not likely, but not out of the realm of possibility.”
He also said that if there was such an animal in the area, it was most likely one someone had obtained illegally and released when it grew too large to handle. “We would like people to understand that if they see any wild animal or any type of animal they are not used to seeing, to not approach the animal and report it…and stay safe.”
Kevin Moore of Betty’s Country Grocery in Walnut Cove said about two years ago he and his nephew saw what he believes was a black panther or large wild cat, while they were driving on Tuttle Road. “It was out in a field, from my vehicle probably about 75 to 80 yards away, and it was not a housecat. It was way too big for that and it had a long tail. It wasn’t a dog either, the mannerisms were different.”
Moore said many people had stopped in to Betty’s Country Grocery to comment on the panther sightings, and “quite a few” said they had seen one or spoken to someone who had a sighting. “My understanding is that they are around here and have been here as long as we have. I talked to game wardens and they felt that way too, but it’s not open season so they can’t be hunted legally,” Moore said.
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