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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

GLEN VAUDREY: black pumas

There is one statement that I always find myself at odds with when it comes to cryptozoology and that is the insistence that there are no such things as black pumas, more often than not you find this stated in regard to big cat sightings in the UK.


Now I really have trouble with the fact that this is quoted like gospel.


From this point of view any report of a sighting of an animal described as a black puma can be nothing more than the viewer being mistaken in his or her sighting. The animal being some other type of big black cat, may be a melanistic leopard or just a domestic cat that has been eating lots of healthy food and putting hours in at the gym until it appears as a fearsome looking beast to the untrained observer, but certainly it can’t possibly be a black puma because there is no such thing.


Now I did read a while back that there has been one confirmed black puma and that unfortunate animal was shot in Brazil in 1843, but in good cryptozoological tradition no proof other than the written word exists to back up this supposed example. Unfortunately, and all too believably, the skin of this unlucky black cat was not preserved and unlike today nobody had a phone to take a picture of the dead cat ready to post on YouTube the next day.



Of course even the picture would be unlikely to have been taken as sufficient proof of the animal’s existence. I should say however that on the whole the theory of ‘no black pumas being possible’ does sound a good argument with quite a few scientific reasons to back it up. It is not because I am ideologically opposed to it that I find myself at odds with it, rather it is because of the following - if you can loudly state that there is no such thing as a black puma do you not then run the risk of someone else using the same argument to state that there can be no possibility of any big cats being found in the wild in Britain, after all many would agree they too cannot possibly exist.

8 comments:

Terry's Bazaar said...

Glen,

I find this odd that melanism is though not to exist in the puma population. There are references in Bruce S. Wright's "The Eastern Panther" to dark or bronish pumas.

I myself had a sighting in October 2003, on the East Range of Fort Huachuca in Cochise County, Arizona.
My comments on various mailing lists were boo-hooed as either a
mistaken sighting of a domestic cat or a black jaguar. We do have jaguar sightings but usually in the mountain ranges coming out of Mexico and as far north as near Tucson.
My co-worker Bob Mantz and I were driving a radio truck on dirt roads when we encountered this animal around 0615 as the sun rose over the Chiricahua Mtns. to the east. The animal was pure black and had the slinky/slouchy appearance of a puma and not the taut muscles of a jaguar. The animal did not look towards us as it walked across the dirt road slowly from right to left. No camera and really no time as it disappeared into the high Johnson grass. We were working a classified radio test so no radios or cell phones with photo capability were permitted.

Terry W. Colvin

Neil A said...

Surely we must look at the consistent reports before we start believing black pumas ?

Karl Shuker noted that a black puma (not dark tan/dark brown) would have a white or pale underside, if it existed. There do not appear to be any references to such animals. In the US it would appear that the big black cats are believed to be melanistic cougars simply because the cougar is the native cat.

In the UK there has been the problem of incorrect description, mainly down to inaccurate press reports who for decades have reported on black pumas. Many people do not realise the colouration of a puma, let alone the fact that leopards can be black.

Black leopards, as well as Bengal Tigers, are most certainly purchased illegally in the US by drug dealers, but if a black leopard escapes, it's more likely the term 'panther' or 'black puma' would be used.

To say that black pumas exist, especially in the UK, is a bit like saying that lions, tigers and cheetahs inhabit the woods too. Sure, such animals have escaped from zoos in the past and are tracked down or shot, but we must always look at the consistent reports before highlighting the more hazy descriptions.

Black leopards observed in Malaysia (as noted on Darren Naish's Tetrapod blog) are far more slinky than one would expect and in the UK. Terry Colvin's sighting was more likely to have concerned a slinky female melanistic leopard.

I would be more than happy if black pumas turned up, especially in the UK, but as reports, or bodies are all too vague, then it seems unlikely they exist at all.

Dale Drinnon said...

Hi Glen and Hi Terry. Terry is a member of my group Frontiers-of-Zoology and we have discussed his sighting there before.

There is nothing really outrageous about the idea of dark pumas. The real problem is an incredibly literalistic and small-minded view of the term "black" pumas. And that goes back to the older discussion which maintains "There are no black panthers"-on the grounds that the colouration is really dark brown and not black.

I have in my files at home several photos of allegedly melanistic pumas killed in various places in the American West, Mexico and in Central America. Some of them have been printed in places like the National Geographic and some have been shown on television. They are ordinarily not black but a dark brown and ordinarily have some white showing as well (the overall effect is rather like the pelt of an otter) And technically of course they are not black, but they are dark brown enough that the hunters which killed them described them as being black. Another variation is an overall dark grey. Both of these colour phases are known and noted down on the books. And I have noted elsewhere the singular circumstance that roughly half of the subspecise of Profelis (Puma) concolr have been proposed citing that the colouration is supposed to be darker than usual, and this continues all the way down into Argentina.

Dale Drinnon said...

Hi Neal, did not see your comment before

Sorry to have to tell you that you are absolutely WRONG about the part where you say "Nobody has ever reported such a thing" because the evidence I have on file shows that is exactly what people DO report, at least as far as the authentic examples go, and in the literature back into the early 1800s, as well as counting the photographs.

Now if you want to say "Purported pumas as sighted in the UK are not generally remarked to have white chin-bibs or paler bellies" then you might have a point. After you go through and interview every possible witness to confirm that they did not see such a thing and that the feature was not conveyed to the news sources.

But in the USA, Mexico and in Central America there is good documented proof of melanistic pumas, it just is not widely known. I have some samples up at my group Frontiers-of-Zoology.

Dale Drinnon said...

BTW, I have just sent Jon Downes some melanistic-puma photos for the benefit of Glen and Neil, one generally acknowledged to represent a "black" puma and the other a contemporary photo from one now living in a zoo in Maine. The former is well-known to be "On the books" and available through several sources. And Ivan Sanderson had known about that one in the 1970s at least, and he mentioned it in PURSUIT.

Dale Drinnon said...

Melanistic strains are also well known to exist in the species otherwise thought to be closest to the pumas, the African and Asian golden cats.

Neil A said...

For me, Dale, the jury is still well and truly out regarding black pumas. In the UK I'm extremely sceptical of such an animal because reports are so inconsistent. Most of what I've looked into across the world seem to show very dark, but not 'black' animals, although Karl Shuker does own an interesting old print/sketch of an animal, which may have been housed at London Zoo! Again though, the animal shows a paler underside.

I certainly think that in the UK, before we start believing in black pumas, lions and tigers, we should be looking at the more consistent reports of puma, black leopard, lynx etc.

Regards
Neil

Terry's Bazaar said...

Another source of recent reported dark or brownish pumas if the Malpai
Borderlands Group. See:
http://www.malpaiborderlandsgroup.org/

One or two of their newsletters in recent years have reported such pumas. Since 1996, the MBP have reported on jaguars coming out of
Mexico into southern Arizona. See:
http://www.malpaiborderlandsgroup.org/endg.asp

My own sighting could have been a melanistic jaguar; however, my co-worker and I thought it looked more like a black puma.

Terry