Caution Macon  

Eisenhower Parkway Extension

Ken's Kitty

Photo at left is an artistic product of our friend Ken at - website- who makes [fun] comment about known, but undocumented sightings of large cats in Middle Georgia.

Large cats are native to Georgia, and they are same species as Cougars, Mountain Lions, Florida Panthers. 

Their fur colors can range from light yellow to tawny beige to dark brown.  They are not Black Panthers which are native to South America.

However - it is always possible for any type of large captive cats to be relocated and released anywhere.

Ken says this to all the skeptics:  "Here's your dang proof! Posing at the Indian Mounds... =kk"


- -  Macon, Georgia  , USA  - -

    This page provides information about rare sightings of native "Florida" Panthers in middle Georgia. 

Troup panther was originally from Florida

Genetic testing by the National Cancer Institute has indicated that the panther shot by a hunter in Troup County last year came from southern Florida.

On Nov. 16, 2008, a hunter observed a mature panther while he was hunting deer in the woods of Troup County. The hunter observed the cat from his stand and shot it, according to Department of Natural Resources officials.  The hunter who shot the panther reported the incident to DNR.

The animal was taken to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Ga., for examination.

Because Florida panthers have not been documented in Georgia in years, it was initially thought the animal might have escaped or have been intentionally released from captivity. With the genetic confirmation that the animal is a Florida panther, it's possible it traveled from south Florida to Georgia.

"We've had evidence (road kill) of Florida panthers as far north as the Florida panhandle," said Tim Breault, director of the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Young males, in an attempt to develop their own territory, will often wander far from their home range. We think this may have been
the case in this situation."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Office of Law Enforcement is investigating the incident since the Florida panther is a federally protected endangered species.

Video narative of sightings on YouTube


The news story 2-20-07  below caused the most recent flurry of interest in Panther Sightings near Macon, Ga.:

A "moving hot spot" detected about 7 p.m. Sunday by a Georgia State Patrol helicopter turned out to be a large cat, possibly a panther-type animal protecting her young, authorities said.
Posted on Tue, Feb. 20, 2007

Search for missing man called off
22-year-old still missing; investigators re-interviewing people
By Liz Fabian and Tim Sturrock

A team of searchers Monday called off the hunt in the Tobesofkee Creek area for a missing 22-year-old Macon man, authorities said.

Jeremy Thomas was reported missing at 2:20 p.m. Sunday after he was last seen Saturday about 3:30 p.m.

"We feel like we have searched the area as well as we can at this point," said Lt. George Meadows, Bibb County sheriff's spokesman. "We are hoping that he has left the area and that he is somewhere else."

Monday rescuers retrieved some personal items from an abandoned boat about 700 yards from Ga. 247, Meadows said.

"There is nothing to indicate that there is a body in the area," Meadows said, "We don't have any reason to suspect foul play at this point, but we are not ruling out anything and we are not speculating."

Meadows said investigators are re-interviewing people to try to determine his whereabouts.

Searchers combed the creek Sunday afternoon and evening while a Georgia State Patrol helicopter hovered overhead.

A "moving hot spot" detected about 7 p.m. Sunday by a Georgia State Patrol helicopter turned out to be a large cat, possibly a panther-type animal protecting her young, authorities said.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Monday, searchers put boats in the water from Interstate 475 and Ga. 247 in south Bibb County near the seven bridges about a half mile from the Houston Avenue fork.

The crews worked toward each other from both ends of the two-mile search area.

"It's going to be a very slow process due to it's a swamp area and a lot of debris and stuff across the creek so we're going to have to remove to make contact from one side to the other," Donnie Mercer, Macon-Bibb County Fire Department training chief, said Monday.

Thomas' mother and stepfather, Carol and Buck Herring, said it was unusual for Thomas to be gone so long.

"He's never gone out and stayed like this, never," said Buck Herring. "If he was planning on even an overnight trip, no one was aware of it, not even his live-in girlfriend, the mother of his children."

"He had just gotten this little boat, and I guess he was going out to try it, but we don't know because the last time I talked to him was Wednesday, which was Valentine's Day," Carol Herring said.

"We wish he would come on home or they would find him whatever the situation may be," Buck Herring said.

According to the initial missing person's report, Thomas and a friend, Ryan Borders, put the boat in the water about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, and Thomas let Borders out at the bridge over Ga. 247 Saturday afternoon, Meadows said.

"We interviewed (Borders) and he said he just got tired of fishing, got tired of being cold and wanted to go home," Mercer said. Borders told investigators he last saw Thomas heading back up the creek.

Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena said searchers had to maneuver around fallen trees across the creek by taking their boats out of the water and carrying them around the debris.

By mid-afternoon Monday, searchers fanned out from the abandoned boat and walked the marshy land trying to find any sign of Thomas.

To contact Tim Sturrock, call 744-4347 or e-mail

On March 22, 2007,  Lindsay Holliday spoke with the Ga State Patrol officers and pilots involved in the story above.  This is his report:

Hamilton Halford
, a Georgia.State Patrol pilot was with another pilot operating the "FLIR" Forward Looking Infra-Red device that evening. 
They were flying a helicopter at about 1000 feet above ground level. 

Officer Halford says that they though they saw the fugitive lying on ground, but after movement it was clearly a big cat [big as a man] with a long tail.

The cat went across the creek on a log and back. then joined with 2 Cubs at some point. This all occured in an area that was about 400-500 yards upstream of the Bridge labeled "Tobesofkee Creek" 

 They were not running the video recorder, and they were so focused on interpreting this unusual and unexpected vision that the event was over before they thought about the video recorder.

 Below are some exchanges by interested people of stories and accounts of Panther sightings near Macon, Ga.

Hey everybody,
This is an interesting story about a panther sighting in the Tobesolfkee Creek swamp near Macon. The Bibb County Sheriff's department has been searching for a lost fisherman for the last four or five days in the swamp. A Georgia State Patrol helicopter found some hot spots using heat seeking cameras. Two searchers went to the spot, but ran away when they saw a mother panther defending her kittens.
This may sound unbelievable, but about ten years ago, I was going through Robins Air Force Base environmental records and found mention of panther sightings in them. I went and interviewed the head of RAFB's environmental department and he told me about his seeing a panther with two kittens on the base. I tape recorded our conversation and still have it. He told me of other sightings on base and the RAFB newspaper also mentioned another sighting after that time.
I also spoke to Allen Peake, now a State Representative, about 8 years ago. He owns a farm in south Houston County and he said the people that work at the Houston County landfill see panthers all the time. At the time, I didn't know the landfill was located alongside the Ocmulgee floodplain. He may have said he has seen a panther, but I can't recall if he did or not.
Anyway, click on this attachment and then click on the link to Channel 13 news or click below:
Then, click on "Click Here to Watch the Press Conference with Bibb County Officials" and the video interview will play. Mention of the panthers occurs at about 4 minutes and 20 seconds.
It would be great if someone could interview the people that actually saw them and if a reporter could write a story about sightings of panthers over the years.
-----Original Message-----
From: John Wilson []
Sent: Thursday, February 22, 2007 9:10 PM
To: John Wilson
Subject: Fwd: Ocmulgee River Floodplain Panther

Note: forwarded message attached.

From: "Sylvia Flowers" <>
Subject: Ocmulgee River Floodplain Panther
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2007 10:04:52 -0500

Did you see the WMAZ TV on-line videotape of the press conference with Sheriff Modena, Johnny Wingers, et. al., covering the search for the young man missing on Tobesofkee Creek??  Maybe some of you saw the footage when it was actually broadcast, but I missed it. This footage makes it very clear that a panther was sighted during the search. They laugh about someone's hasty retreat and mention "mother protecting her young"!!  See it at:
I saw the much shorter mention in the Macon Telegraph and on a later news report, but this video leaves no doubt about it. After the many years of rumors and denials, I think this deserves some attention in its own right, since the panther is still highly endangered, especially in the Southeast, and this one apparently had kittens.  It is all the more reason the Ocmulgee Old Fields deserve protection.
The following info about the panther (Felis concolor coryi) is from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's website on endanagered species:
"RANGE AND POPULATION LEVEL: The historic range included eastern Texas or western Louisiana and the lower Mississippi River valley east through the Southeastern States in general (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and parts of Tennessee and South Carolina) (Young and Goldman 1946). Even though numerous sighting reports continue to surface annually throughout its historic range, it is unlikely that viable populations of the Florida panther presently occur outside Florida. The only known self-sustaining population occurs in south Florida, generally within the Big Cypress Swamp physiographic region and centered in Collier and Hendry Counties. Within the last decade, radio-instrumented panthers have also utilized habitats in Broward, Dade, Glades, Highlands, Lee, and Monroe Counties. Scattered verified sign has been documented (late 198O's) along the St. Johns River drainage (Belden and Frankenberger 1988) from northern Okeechobee County north to southern Putnam County (Belden personal communication 1989). Currently, the wild population is estimated to be comprised of 3O to 5O adult animals."

Panther Sightings in Middle Georgia

There have been a number of reported sightings at the (Robins Air Force) Base, however, no photos or casts of footprints. These animals are very secretive and shy. There is enough undeveloped land in the floodplain to support a panther. Lots of people claim to see black panthers, but the Florida panther is a sub-species of cougar (aka mountain lion) and is not black. It is not in the same family as the “black” panther. This animal is actually a spotted cat with a gene for blacker fur.

Susan Hanberry-Martin

A note from Karen Hunt between Hawkinsville and Pineview, GA.

Last spring my husband and I saw a panther at the back of our property (in high grass at the edge of a tall pine tree forest). We called our extension agent, Ronnie Barrentine, and he said it is possible but that the State of Georgia claims panthers don’t live in our state. Our location is off of Blue Springs Road near Bluff Creek in Pulaski County

Karen Hunt

(From Lisa) Oh yes, I'll add my two cents to this. I grew up in Dodge County (Eastman). For many weeks we had a panther living in the woods behind our property. This one stayed at a nearby pond. Several men, who went out looking for the panther, did catch glimpses of it. I do remember hearing it "scream" during the night. Marty says that he saw one in Thomas County where he grew up.

Lisa Willett

I have always been impressed with how adaptable cougars are. I have seen them in the jungles of Central and South America where I do much of my research and I have seen them in the foothills on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Now that deer have come back in such numbers in Georgia it is not surprising to find that cougars are being seen. Certainly the forested areas of Georgia are much better habitat for even the adaptable cougar than the soggy wetlands of the Everglades and Big Cypress.
Ron Carroll

At DNR, we get several "panther" reports every year from all over the
state involving animals that are both black and brown in color. I
strongly suspect that almost all of these reports are cases of mistaken
identity involving house cats, bobcats, dogs, coyotes, otters, and maybe
bears. Many say the animal appeared to be a young panther because if
wasn't very big, but did appear to be larger than a house cat. The few
photos and videos that have been submitted to this office clearly show
bobcats and black house cats. I even heard of a DNR officer who went to
retrieve a dead black panther. He took the animal back to his office,
fully believing it to be a panther. It, too, was a large house cat.
I'm convinced that our native population of Florida panthers disappeared
from the state decades ago, and that if a remnant population had
survived, there would be a string of evidence including shot and
road-killed specimens. I think most people take it for granted that
there are panthers on our landscape because they have always heard
stories of panther sightings. Therefore, casual reports are widely
accepted without verification, and unfamiliar sights and sounds are
readily attributed to the presence of panthers.

On the other hand, I believe some of the reports are actually of
cougars that have escaped from captivity. There are a number of cougars
held in Georgia under permits, and who knows what is held without a
permit? I recall 2 cats that were confiscated in Athens a few years
ago. A landlord went to collect overdue rent and heard some horrifying
growling inside the house. Officials broke in and found 2 jaguars, one
spotted and one black. These could have easily escaped or been

So, my approach to panther reports is best described as open-minded
skepticism. I think some reports are highly credible and undeniable, but
are not of native panthers. With all the trail cameras now in use maybe
we will see some evidence soon.

Ivory-billed woodpeckers are also reported statewide, and though I'm
naturally skeptical of these as well, I haven't completely given up hope
that maybe one of these will pan out in appropriate habitat.

Jim Ozier

Whenwe first moved to our farm in Wayne County (Odum)we saw a panther in our front yard at around 8pm one night. The Little Satilla Creek floodplain runs along the entire back half of my property. We had grilled salmon earlier that night and the dogs started raising a ruckus on the front porch. We went to the front door and saw a panther attempting to jump up on top of our pump house. It ran as soon as it saw us at the door. The next morning we found its tracks in fire ant mounds and soft dirt in the front yard. I have heard stories for years from hunters and fishers about panthers along the Satilla River, in the Okeefenokee Swamp, and in the mountains of north Georgia, some brown and some black. I just assumed there were some left scattered around. The Ocmulgee would be a perfect place for them to find relative isolation, as are the Satilla, Okeefenokee and other isolated floodplains. Another very good reason to protect them.

Phyllis Bowen

We own about 200 acres of swampland just a half a mile east of 247 with Rocky & Tobesofkee Creeks running through it.

There are cat tracks in this area. The track is only about 3-4 inches in diameter so I attributed it to a large house cat or a small bob cat- not a panther.

Bob Hargrove

According to the Florida Wildlife Commission:
The typical panther track is the imprint of four unclawed toes around a 3-lobed
heel pad. The front feet are slightly wider than the hind feet, and tracks of the
male are larger than those of the female. Male tracks of the front feet are 5-6
cm wide (approx. 2-2.3 inches) and female tracks are 4-5 cm wide (approx.
1.6-2.0 inches).

Also see the Kansas State Extension Service website:

which has a handy comparison of bobcat (2") and panther (3"+) pawprint info.

If you have domestic cats with paws that size, I'd like to know what you are
feeding them!

And, yes, I have a panther story, too. My aunt who lives at Bullard in Twiggs
County saw two adult panthers sauntering across the road just west of the
Beech Springs Methodist Church between Bullard and Jeffersonville. There's a
small creek where they were crossing and they were completely unperturbed by
her car. This occurred about 20 years ago.

We didn't know how many black bears there were in the Ocmulgee bottomlands
until the project to radio-tag them. Maybe we need a project similar to the ones
that have been used to prove the presence of lynx elsewhere.

Dorinda Dallmyer

Despite hundreds of puma sightings reported each year to organizations such as the Eastern Puma Research Network, many wildlife officials "vehemently deny or refuse to acknowledge panther sightings north of Florida and east of the Rockies, even ones with documented evidence."

John Lutz, Director, Eastern Puma Research Network

Despite numerous sightings over the years, only a dozen were accompanied by sufficient field evidence to be confirmed by biologists. To confirm a sighting, evidence in the form of a live or dead animal, body part(s), scat, hair samples, tracks preserved in plaster, or video/photos is needed. While proof exists that pumas still survive in the east, the challenge is to prove they are reproducing in the wild. Until a confirmed sighting of a cub occurs, officials will continue to deny there are reproducing populations of pumas in the eastern U.S. Rather, they will claim the sightings are more likely to be of escaped or released captives.

Elijay Wildlife Rehab Santuary

Sat, Jan. 27, 2007
Life-changing event’: Panther chases forester
A federal forester says he was chased into the Chattooga River by a 7-foot-long panther with “jet black” fur. Terrance Fletcher, a technician with the U.S. Forest Service, dove into the frigid water and crawled up the bank in South Carolina to escape.

In March of 2004, I was on Hwy 196 in Long County, between Hinesville and Glennville,around 10:30 p.m., when I saw a huge, black, cat crouched down near the side of the road. I had heard stories that the cats were out there but never really believed it until I saw one with my own eyes. I am fascinated with them and would love to see another one. I would like to see them and their natural habitat protected. I read in the Ludowici, Ga. News of one being sighted in the same area that I saw that one. I believe there are some still out there, regardless of what the scientists say.
Debbie Hardenbrook

My Mother and Brother live in Lincolnton, GA,(Lincoln Co.) I guess it was about April of this year, my brother heard what sounded like a BIG cat in the woods around the house. My Mom heard it early one morning after that and my bother saw it crossing the road near the house.
While visiting my bother came into the house and told us that the cat was back, so I heard it for the first time. It kept calling while going around the house and across the road. I guessing that it may be a female in heat calling for a mate. I haven't been outside after dark much since.

January 1981
Team Members
Robert C. Belden, Leader, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission
Ken C. Alvarez, Florida Department of Natural Resources
Robert E. Baudy, Owner of Rare Feline Breeding Compound
Brian Knowles, U.S. Forest Service
James A. Kushlan, National Park Service
James N. Layne, Archbold Biological Station
Peter C. H. Pritchard, Florida Audubon Society
A Florida Panther Record Clearinghouse consisting of a central filing system for reports of panthers should be established in each state within the former range of Florida panthers (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi) with a central Clearinghouse in Florida (112-12.).

For you nature enthusiasts out there I had the experience of a lifetime this past weekend. We like to find and explore remote rural Florida. We were on a logging road that runs north of Jasper Florida into Georgia. When we had just crossed into Georgia (I was running my GPS off my laptop in the car) we came around a bend in the road and up about 100 yards ahead we saw a big deep reddish brown cat about 42" from nose to rump with a long tail headed toward us. When he sighted us he ran across the road and sprang for the bush and was gone. A few years ago the state attempted to introduce the Florida panther into the nearby Pinhook swamp, but abandoned the program and withdrew some of the animals. Apparently the program was more successful than they thought. Hopefully they should do well on the deer and wild turkeys. We photographed the numerous clear paw prints and forwarded them to interested parties. Panthers cover ground-about 20 miles per day and can range over 200 square miles. Hopefully the panther will thrive in this area which should remain undeveloped for a long time.

INTRODUCTION: Native eastern cougars were believed extirpated throughout the east by the 1940s, but a growing number of sightings prompted the listing of Felis concolor couguar on the 1973 Endangered Species List (Bolgiano, 1995).   A field survey in the southern Appalachians by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS), however, failed to find conclusive evidence of cougars by the early 1980s, although a small number of possible deer kills, scrapes, and scats were identified.  (Downing, 1981). 
Confirmed field evidence began to accumulate in the 1990s.   The presence of at least a few individuals living wild in the east is now acknowledged by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Clark, 2000).  Issues of legal status, population viability, habitat management, and human acceptance are emerging.   The Eastern Cougar Foundation (ECF), a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded by independent researcher Todd Lester in West Virginia in 1998 to compile the accumulating evidence, and to grapple with these issues.
CHRIS BOLGIANO, Adjunct Professor, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807; Environmental Author and Vice President, Eastern Cougar Foundation, Fulks Run, VA 22830

‘Life-changing event’: Panther chases forester

Sat, Jan. 27, 2007
A federal forester says he was chased into the Chattooga River by a 7-foot-long panther with “jet black” fur.
Terrance Fletcher, a technician with the U.S. Forest Service, dove into the frigid water and crawled up the bank in South Carolina to escape.
“The animal started running ... so I decided to run and get away and jump in the river to get across to the other side,” Fletcher said this week. “It was a life-changing event for me.”
The incident occurred the second week in January along the mountain river separating Georgia and South Carolina.
Black panthers are not native to the southeastern United States, meaning Fletcher might have seen a river otter or a bobcat, state wildlife officials in Georgia and South Carolina said.
Still, Fletcher and Forest Service District Ranger Dave Jensen said they think he saw some sort of large cat on the Georgia side of the river.
“It was a little too big to be a bobcat,” Fletcher said. “My first impression was a panther.”
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources found no evidence of large cat tracks in the area where Fletcher said he saw the animal, but the Georgia DNR’s Kevin Lowrey said it’s possible a black panther was lurking in the woods.
If so, it was probably an exotic pet that escaped, he said. His agency regularly receives reports of people seeing cougars, large tawny cats that were once native to Georgia and South Carolina. Officials say the creatures are likely escaped pet cougars or other animals, rather than wild cougars.
“We don’t have a native black cat in the United States,” Lowrey said. “That just tells me it was something released.”
Lowrey, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia agency, said people hiking or fishing along the Chattooga River should not be overly concerned. The river is the only federally designated wild and scenic river in South Carolina, and it is popular with recreational enthusiasts.
Lowrey said folks should always be aware of their surroundings when in the forest.
Fletcher, a 24-year-old Alabama native, said he and another Forest Service technician were surveying trails on the Georgia side of the river south of the Burrells Ford bridge when they separated.
While taking a break near the river bank, Fletcher heard rustling in the woods and looked in that direction. Staring back at him was what appeared to be a black panther, crouched on the forest floor like a house cat stalking a bird, he said.
When he stood up, the cat started running, prompting him to take the icy dip in the Chattooga. Soaked to the skin and freezing, he met up with his partner and walked through the woods to their Forest Service truck.
“We just got on out of there,” Fletcher said, adding he remains a bit spooked by the incident. “I don’t know how long (the feeling) will last.”

Seen a cougar? Tell about it . . .
Sat, 03/10/2007 - 3:19pm
By:  (Atlanta)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is beginning a review of scientific and commercial information to determine the status of the endangered eastern cougar, the first review the Service has done since publishing a recovery plan in 1982.The Service placed the eastern cougar on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 1973…  (More)

The Mountain Lion was once found throughout the United States in varied habitats from swamps to prairies, and mountains of the eastern and western states. Now it is restricted to wilderness areas of the American West and a remnant population in southern Florida. It is possible that the Mountain Lion may occur in wilderness areas of the Blue Ridge mountains (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia) and within the Okefenokee Swamp.


Summary of Individual Mountain Lion Movements and Activities

(Lions involved in the Florda Panther Reintroduction Feasibility Study)
Provides detailed information on each of the 19 cats released in North Florida in 1993-95.
(NOTE:  T40 was recaptured near Thompson, GA)

Florida Panther Feasibility Study Conclusions

By David Fleshler Staff Writer
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Fish and Wildlife Service
Notice of Availability Technical/Agency
Draft of the Third Revision of the
Florida Panther Recovery Plan for
Review and Comment
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service,
ACTION: Notice of document availability
and public comment period.

Cat Scratch Posts
Dorinda Dallmeyer []
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 3:05 PM
To: John Wilson
Subject: Re: [] Georgia panthers

Dear Mr. Wilson:

According to what I have read about attempts to confirm the presence of panthers in an area, it could be relatively easy if you let the panthers "come to you."  This is done by setting up fenceposts wrapped in a rough carpet that is sprayed with an "olfactory attractant" which I suppose is panther urine.  The cats will come to the posts and rub up against them, leaving behind shed hairs.  The shed hairs then can be analyzed by geneticists to determine unequivocally that the cats are present. For example, this technique has been used in Colorado to confirm the presence of lynx and in Quebec (of all places!) to confirm the presence of panthers. 

Lord knows we have enough fence posts and carpet in Georgia to ring the Ocmulgee bottomlands if need be.  All that would be needed is a relatively modest amount of funding for the atttractants, to pay people to check the rubbing posts for hairs and the cost of the genetic tests. 

People keep saying that no panthers have ever been killed on the highways but I bet there have never been any alligators run over in Middle Georgia either. There simply are too few miles of ground-level roads crossing the bottomlands for a panther to have to bother to cross a busy road and get hit. Although I am not a wildlife biologist by training, I work in the field of conservation ethics and would be happy to help with getting something like this process set up rather than relying on happenstance and flat-out luck.

All the best,


this page is maintained by

  Lindsay D Holliday  

for Caution Macon