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My encounter with a black panther

John Sumwalt

“One summer morning in Elroy in 2010, near the Baraboo River, Helen McDonald saw an enormous black cat drinking from a pond in her yard as she watched from a window.”

In May of 2017, near Wonewoc, Cody Revels

and Katie Coleman, “experienced an extended encounter with a black panther near a fishing pond and captured it on cell phone video which they later posted online for a limited time on “The Messenger of Juneau County.”

Dean Henning, a farmer near Clinton in southern Wisconsin, wrote to me in 2015 about a large black cat he saw walking on the edge of one of his fields. He said, “When I first saw this large cat I stopped and studied the size by comparing it to the trees behind it and the distance from where I was standing.

In my mind it was a large black panther. I quickly ran to my truck to get my binoculars, but by the time I returned, the large cat was no longer visible.”

My own sighting occurred on a bright fall morning as I was spraying for red bugs on Sept. 21, 2009. It was one of

those singular, shining moments I will never forget. I had just completed the first pass around the south side of the

house when my wife, Jo, called out from the deck, “Is that a cat out there by the brush pile? It looks too big to be a


I wiped my goggles and peered out through the chemical fog toward the brush pile that had been accumulating for decades out by the back fence.

There was, indeed, a very large cat crouched near a woodchuck hole. I walked

toward the brush pile to get a better look. Jo was right — this was one huge feline, about four feet long, maybe 60 pounds, at least six times the size of an ordinary house cat.

He had little pointy ears, a coal-black coat that glistened

in the morning sun, and a three foot long tail. Most striking were his menacing eyes.

I moved closer. The penetrating eyes that had been fixed on the hole were now lasered directly on me.

The dark creature was perfectly still — waiting, watching, and warily eyeing me as I continued my approach, poised to spring at the slightest alarm.

His eerie stillness was disturbing.

I came to an abrupt stop about 50 feet away when it suddenly occurred to me that this black panther could most likely outrun me.

I kept looking into his eyes as I backed away. The still eyes stared back.

For more information about the documentary, “Return to Wildcat Mountain: Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus,” go


1 Comment

Jimmy JO Mileski
Jan 19, 2022

Do you think that that black panther was "environmentally assisted" by some do-gooder agency? Around these parts a few years ago they had some damn fools wanting to put a lot of poisonous snakes on an island where people go to picnic. The Experts said it would help the natural ecology. But they had a hard sell with the voices in the crowd.

The residents were also terrified that the snakes would escape; but were assured that the snakes could never leave the island. Until some guy took a pic of one swimming away.

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