Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 19th, 2009
Ah, there are mystery cats in the wilds of New York State. As you know, there is a long history here of anomalistic reports of fair-sized felines, and these new encounters are not surprising. Cat cryptids are recognized for this region.
What is interesting, from a “how is the media approaching this” point-of-view, as you can see from the following, you will find the article is mostly open-minded.
The learning curve seems to be a fast one for this reporter, as he is using our old friends over at the “Big Cats Online Web site” to obtain fast facts like “there is no species called black panther.”
But basically, this is generally a fair article, especially with regard to retelling the sightings, with no use of the ridicule curtain, such as calling into question how much drinking the eyewitnesses had been engaged in on St. Patrick’s Day.
Skeptical answers are provided, including the usual debunking tone of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation. Also, the red herring, without any facts that these might be exotic animals, is seeded into the thoughts of the reader.
Is a panther loose in Palisades?
Police haven’t found any evidence, but a handful of residents have reported sightings, and there are rumors that a homeowner in posh Snedens Landing has been keeping large exotic cats as pets.
Dorian Tunell doesn’t know where the big cats came from, but he’s convinced that they exist.
Tunell said he saw two black panthers on a bike trail in Tallman Mountain State Park in Sparkill while riding with his 8-year-old son, Evan, late Tuesday afternoon (March 17, 2009).
“They were right in front of us, 25 to 30 yards away,” Tunell said yesterday. “They didn’t see us. We high-tailed it out of there.”
Tunell, an electrical contractor from Palisades, and his son biked to a friend’s home in Snedens Landing and called Orangetown police. He said the animals were larger than a German shepherd and weighed about 150 pounds.
His report came just days after two Palisades women told The Journal News they had seen one or two large, dark-colored animals around their homes in recent weeks. Jane Bernick specifically described the animal as a panther. She said she watched it with her binoculars for about 10 to 15 minutes while it was in her backyard.
Orangetown police, New York state park police and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation police searched for the animals on Tuesday but found no signs, Orangetown Detective Lt. Jim Brown said.
State officers were back at the state park yesterday (March 18, 2009). They asked Tunell to join them in their search.
“We found some prints; whether they belong to the panther or not, I don’t know. But they were pretty big,” said Tunell, who said he had heard about the recent animal sightings in the area.
According to the Big Cats Online Web site, there is no species called black panther. The name is now associated with any large black-coated cat, meaning it could be a cougar or a jaguar. Cougars live across North and South America, while jaguars can be found in southern states, but primarily live in South America.
State park police Sgt. Steven Huff said yesterday that “extra staff” had been sent to Orangetown to look into the “unconfirmed sights of large, cat-like creatures.”
DEC spokeswoman Wendy Rosenbach said the agency occasionally received reports from area residents claiming to have seen large cats, typically identifying them as mountain lions or cougars. But the DEC has never found evidence of those animals in the Lower Hudson Valley, she said. Sometimes the animals turn out to be a bobcat, which has pointy ears and is slightly bigger than a house cat – but that doesn’t match the descriptions provided by the three Palisades residents.
In the past few days, the DEC’s wildlife desk has fielded a handful of calls from Rockland residents saying that they were aware of the sightings but had not actually seen the animal, Rosenbach said.
Orangetown police have offered a black fox, coyote and a fisher as the animals people mistook for a panther. Another possibility, Rosenbach said, is a skinny bear that just came out of hibernation.
Rosenbach said DEC wildlife staff members have heard that a person living in Snedens Landing has an exotic cat collection, but it’s only a rumor at this point. That person would need to have a permit to keep the animals as pets and the DEC hasn’t investigated that far.
Staff writer Ben Rubin contributed information to this report.
“‘Large cat-like creatures’ may be prowling around Palisades” by Khurram Saeed, The Journal News, March 19, 2009.