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Saturday, June 26, 2010

DALE DRINNON: Melanistic pumas

Glen and Neil seem not have seen any photos of melanistic pumas so I enclose a couple of photos for them. The one hanging from a tree was killed in Costa Rica in the 1930s and is the most famous example; the one at the zoo in Maine is living there currently, photo from Flicker internet photo service.

Best Wishes, Dale D.


Andrew D. Gable said...

I didn't think that there were any melanistic pumas, everything I've ever read said they don't exist. But obviously they do. Kinda makes you wonder about 'black panthers' here in the states, no?

Neil A said...

The one of the hunter with the puma is an image I've seen quite often, but it still only appears as dark tan. Any chance of a better image of the main 'melanistic' individual ?

Anonymous said...

Actually the whole deal is that the "Black" ones ARE only a sort of dark reddish brown. That happens to be the case in the so-called "black panthers" in any event. The thing is, this dark brown colour is what the WITNESSES are calling "black" annd the hunter that killed the Central American example called HIS one "black" We are not dealing with what a scientist would call "black", we are dealing with what a LAYMAN might call "black". THAT is the whole point.

Yes, as a matter of fact I believe there are other images of the zoo animal on Flickr, but they are marked as under copyright. That always complicates things.

And there are several other photos of the dark-brown-"Black" pumas from the Western USA and Mexico, similar to the Central American example, and some of them called "Onzas". They are all of them dark brown BUT dark enough to be called "Black" and that's what counts. You will also notice that they ususlly do still retain some whiter markings including the lighter underbelly. The overall effect is like an otter's pelt. THAT is in fact what I have heard the witnesses repeating, over and over again.

Anonymous said...

I also notice the use of the term "dark tan". Tan is a light brown and dark tan is brown. Pink is light red and dark pink is red.

What we are talking about is subjective impressions of the witnesses in question. Therefore what the witness thinks is dark might not look so dark to you, but then your impression doesn't count as defining what the witness thought he saw. It all becomes a matter of wording. The problem is not whether we have proof of actually black pumas but whether we have pumas dark enough that the witnesses can perceive them as very dark or black under the right lighting conditions. And I think we have any number of examples that showw exactly that. In other words, they do not need to be absolutely black in order for witnesses to call them that. And as I indicated from the onset, this argument is merely the most recent extension of the old argument about whether or not "Black panthers" are really black. They are not black and many experts had been saying that for years. But they do not have to be anything other than a dark red-brown in order for them to be called black panthers by witnesses, and regularly.

Originally also, Black jaguars and dark pumas were classified together under the name "Felis niger" or Black Cat. It later became apparent that it was a composite lable for more than one cat cloured very dark. However the old illustrations of the PUMA "Felis niger" are also the dark-phase-puma-pattern, dark on the back with a lighter underbelly, in all of the old Natural Histories and citing especially Buffon. That pattern is exactly what is shown in the Central American photograph. By the books, THAT is what they were calling a "Black puma" in THOSE days.

Neil A said...

Dale, I am fully aware that black leopards are not actually black, although it seems that due to the recessive gene many people are in fact spotting what appear to be jet-black cats in the UK, and not simply very dark brown cats. There are numerous reports of jet black cats where the rosette pattern is not discernible.

Regarding the puma, I'd like to hear more regarding the zoo specimen. However, going back to black pumas, I'm still unconvinced of these animals existing in the wilds of the UK. As far as I'm aware the print Karl Shuker spoke of mentioned a jet-black puma with a paler underside, and not a dark reddish cat.

There is of course a lot of confusion, especially when it comes to witness statements etc. Until a black puma turns up in the USA (which I would love to happen)I'm unconvinced. they may be dark in colour, but not enough to appear black. Like you said, are these animals dark enough to appear black ? And I don't think they are. A lot of reports in the US describe animals which appear dark enough to be black which suggests to me black leopards and not puma.

I completely understand what you are saying Dale, don't see this as an arguement as it's not. I'm very interested in the possibility of dark pumas.

Anonymous said...

More than one sort of thing is being called a "Black Panther" in the USA. Certainly we DO have melanistic jaguars that cross the Mexican border-these have been documented. And it is easier to find a stray pet black jaguar than to come across the occasional dark puma. In this case, that was not what I was talking about, I was specifically addressing the matter of dark pumas. My information leads me that when they are actually pumas, they are brown not black and probably accentuated by shadows or because the coat has ben wetted from being in the water. And I have heard enough reports for me to believe this is a rare but regular occurance in the category.

I never once claimed to say that ALL reported "Black panthers" were dark pumas, only to go on record and to say there WERE such things.

And I'm sorry but any such a discussion or a debate is ALREADY an argument, by definition. The thing is just that one should try not to get nasty or insulting about it.

Terry's Bazaar said...

Another source of recent reported dark or brownish pumas is the Malpai Borderlands Group. See:

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:

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


Unknown said...

Many dark brown pumas/cougar/mt lions in the diablo range of San bonito county California. Lots of farmers Talk of them. Thy say the cant reproduce, are smaller, and usually die early. 5 to 7 yrs. don't know how they know those tidbits though. Just the other day I saw up close, a huge bobcat 40 to 55lb with no spots at all or leg marks. It had the ears w the tall tips, and black line white tip bob tail; its coat was so puma looking brown/red. The one I saw up close last winter was the same size, all marked up, more yellow/gray. Huge though! I grew up in South Carolina w big bobcats but damn! This last week though looked like a perfect puma/ bobcat mix. Awesome area to see big cats and big birds. I live near pentacles nat park