Black Panther Sightings of Ohio

I start this article off with a personal story. My Grandmother use to tell me when I was a child that she saw a black panther on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.  She was younger when she saw this, standing on the Ohio side of the river in Portsmouth, looking over to the Kentucky side, and saw in the forest, a very large black cat.  She called it a black panther.  When I was a kid, grandma use to have a large child's stuffed animal; a black panther that could purr.  I suppose she picked it up at a zoo.  She would show him off and then tell her story about seeing this large frightening cat.  I have no doubt that she really did see something. It had to be large to be see from across the river!  I think she only told it to me once or twice, but it left an impression on me.      

The Black Puma by Lizars. 1843
It wasn't until years later that I even looked into this kind of story and was shocked to find that reports of large black cats in North America are not uncommon.  As of this writing, I see a large list of sightings in my own state of Ohio, dating back over the last ten years.  Many authors have tackled these stories, namely, my introduction to the phenomenon, Loren Coleman and his book, Mysterious America. He devotes 2 chapters to mystery cats; The Phantom Panthers and Maned Mystery Cats chapters are quite eye opening, giving reports of these animals spanning the entire last century and more.  Briefly, maned lion like males and black panther like females are seen together in North America.    

In relation to my grandmothers sighting, the Eastern Puma Research Network  has a map of the hot spots of the eastern half of the US from 1935 to 2000.  The whole eastern half of the US is covered in yellow highlight, indicating where they are suppose to roam.   There, circled in blue is a large area covering Portsmouth, Ohio.  Blue on this map indicates; "Documented by DNA, trail cameras, tracks, dead cougars & cubs or field evidence of professional scientists with wildlife of forest biology backgrounds & experience..."

Though some call them black panthers, they could be any kind of large cat.  Leopard, jaguar, cougar, they all fall into this black cat pigmentation, or melanism.  What ever they are, in my future travels, I will keep my eyes open for these mystery cats.

For more mystery big cats, see Loren Coleman's Cryptomundo site.

- Mark

See other Ohio Mystery Animals . . .

Confirmed Black 'Leopard' Sightings in Ohio, 2011

Mountain Lion Killed in Connecticut & Big Cat sightings in Maryland and West Virginia

Ohio Mystery Canine. A Wolf in the Buckeye State?

My Visit to see where the Mothman Took Flight



  1. While out horseback riding today in the backcountry of Pisgah, WV, a large black cat swooped down across the dirt road and over the bank - right in front of me. It traveled at lighting speed, but I have no doubt as to what I saw. I just couldn't believe! It was a large black cat weighing around 80 pounds and traveling at the speed of light. Unbelievable. Now I'm searching the net trying to find out what this animal is. 9/21/11

  2. 11/30/2011 while I was driving home to Brewster. I was going through Navarre Ohio right beside their fire station is a small field right before you get to the walking path, a friend and I had to slow down as a large black cat (looked like a panther) crossed the road in front of us it was between midnight and 11:30 at night it's eye glowing a greenish yellow, and was kinda low to the ground and it just walked along like it belonged here. It was the craziest thing I have ever seen. We couldn't believe what we just saw so we turned around and drove back to get a better look and it was gone!!

  3. Portsmouth, definitely! Bonser Run, the above Ridge areas and Woodland Heights are also places I was told they would frequent. My father was born & raised on Bonser Run & witnessed repeated sightings of these cats. (there are at least two, as I was told consistantly). He was an avid nature enthusiast & photographer. He photographed many species & varieties of animals from all over this county & surrounding counties. I'm not sure that he ever captured them on film though. Not that I am aware of anyway. He passed away a few years ago but spoke of them quite often. Hutchinson Hollow Road on Bonser Run would be the place for you to look. Though I don't believe I have ever personally seen them for myself, I have heard them. I assume that most of my sightings were of black/dark colored labs/dogs. I live on the Ridge above Bonser Run. I have only seen black bear, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, deer, etc. at my place. Not one person whom I have spoke with about them has ever stated that they felt threatened or feared any type of attack by these cats. I always wondered if they came from an exotic owner in the Lucasville or Piketon, OH area. Whether they were released or escaped. Hmm?

  4. Today my daughter and I and my grandson witnessed a large black cat, across a field standing right at the edge of the woods in Diamond, Ohio... I first drove by the field and my daughter, says what in the world is that? I said where and then I couldn't believe what I was seeing... I drove down the road and turned around, and went back to take a second look, we drove back very slowly and there it was standing there with it's big long tail waving just like cat, and then it turned and stared us down,, we were mesmerized! Then it turned and ran back into the woods... this was no more then a mile from my house.... July 20, 2012 at 3:00PM

  5. Spooky stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  6. This morning I saw a black panther in a residential neighborhood in Bellbrook, Ohio. I was driving down the street in a neighborhood that is up against the Sugarcreek Reserve when I saw a large black cat. It crossed the street in front of my car and took off toward the woods. I tried to follow it, but it was fast and very ninja-like. It disappeared. I reported the sighting to the Bellbrook police department. It was so freaking cool!

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  12. I spend more than 1,000 hours each year reestablishing wildlife habitat on private land in N.E. Ohio, and I can assure all of the folks who have an interest in knowing whether or not cougar exist in Ohio that they have in fact returned to our state. Having said this, I would encourage anyone who sees one of these big cats to "not" report it to the ODNR, local police or news media. Why? Because the ODNR and most police departments do not want these sightings to be confirmed and broadcast through the media, and for good reason: If the ODNR publicly confirms such sightings, there would be a swell of panic among citizens, along with a subsequent demand that something be done about it. The other problem you have is with the people who suddenly think they are safari hunters and decide to go out and shoot these animals. While these cats do exist and are growing in number, it is to the detriment of these animals when such sightings are confirmed and made public. So, to everyone who reads this, if you spot a big black or tan cat while your driving down the road, no, you're not seeing things, and no, you don't need to call the ODNR, local police or newspaper to report it. Just be grateful that you had the opportunity to see such a cool animal in the wild, or what's left of the wild. It's going fast!

  13. This morning my husband seen a big cat while driving to work! It wasn't a black cat but reddish in color, like a deer. He was shocked! Our grandparents had told us stories about these big cats but to actually see one kind of puts things into perspective.

  14. I saw one in Rome, OH. My family was driving around there to see somebody but while they were driving on this long road, I saw this black animal eating crops. First thing I thought was that it was a dog or a wolf. Then I saw it's tail and it was THICK. Its coat looked silky black in the sun. When I said, "A panther! That's a panther!" My parents looked at me like I was looney. Well who's looney nowwwwwwww?

  15. I 'am from West Portsmouth, Ohio.I used to live up a rd called; Stoney Run, One night in the earl hours of morning I was awaken by my Moms ducks making a terrible racket, which their pen was close to my bedroom window, I saw the black pather chasing the ducks around the pen, I got up & got the gun & went to the front of house outside , turning on porch light, when I aimed at the huge cat, it looked at me with green eyes & open its mouth hissing at me loudly showing me his teeth with two long teeth like fangs on each side, I was so scared of missing the shot I went back in the house, two ducks was found within the pen dead , this was the second time the cat had got the ducks , a week eariliar there was also two found , but was'nt sure what killed them, dont know why it didnt eat them, that was in 1982, never forgot that night.

  16. The only other big cat seen in the area that I personally know about was back about 1970-1971 - a big cat had been killing wild rabbits & had also killed or mained a number of pets in the area - dogs & house cats. My own cat, a small calico was killed by it, its side just ripped wide open. I had a dog, a Husky, who also tangled with it & had a big chunk of flesh torn out of its right shoulder, although it survived. A number of people in the area had come across trees in the wood where it could be seen that the cat had been sharpening its claws on the bark & several times, a number of men had formed hunting parties to go out looking for it, without luck. This in the late summer, early fall when all this started.

    It was subsequently discovered that someone in the village had illegally brought an ocelot back from Texas as a pet & when they found out that they were violating state law, they just released it into the wild. I don't know if they were ever cited for it or not, although I was told they had admitted to what they had done.

    In the early winter, which was a pretty cold one that year, a couple hunters said they had seen it & had taken shots at it, but it got away & they thought they had missed it. About a week or two later, my other dog, a Black Lab Retriever, came into the back yard from the woods, dragging a large carcass through the snow, I went to look at it & it was a huge cat - the head was very big,but not gigantic & it had big fangs. Its fur was a pale dirty brownish-greyish color, with what looked like a little white - it was obvious the dog didn't kill it as it appeared to have been dead for awhile & was frozen stiff & looked like maybe some other animals had gnawed at the carcass. I would guess from the size of the remains that it had probably been in the vicinity of 35-45lbs while it was alive. I was surprised that while it was a big cat that it was not the "monster" my child's mind had envisioned, having never spotted it myself while it was still on the loose. But it was still pretty big - maybe about the size of a medium-sized dog roughly.

    We called a neighbor who came to look at it & he said, "Yep, that looks like the cat we've been looking for - guess those boys must have hit it after all & it crawled away to die somewhere & then the dog found it & dragged it home". He took the carcass into town to show the other guys who had been looking for it & I don't know what subsequently became of it after he took it - I was maybe 9-10yrs old at the time.

  17. The above story regarding the ocelot took place in Lawrence Township, outside of Canal Fulton, Ohio.

  18. I have a no BS friend that has sighted a panther or black puma on three different occasions over the past twenty-five years in Southern Perry County Ohio. I could not question his word. I've known him for over fifth years. They're here.
    In 2014 there was a bobcat kitten killed on SR 93, also in Southern Perry County. This I have a picture of. So sad.

  19. This is what my mom told me about what she saw in the area of Cleveland Ohio, she said "when your dad and i came home around probably 6 or 7 pm we had just pulled into our drive way and across the street is a church, but we can see the back of the church and the steps going up to the second floor of the church, when we pulled in our lights of the car hit what looked like a large black cat, it turned around and had turquoise-green eyes when it slowly turned around" if you read haunted ohio books there is a book based on that but not in the cleveland area. She swears to this day it was a black cat or an alien.

  20. I live in Bellbrook, Ohio, in Sugarcreek Twp. On 2/29/16 I was driving West on Feedwire Rd past a large field where frequently deer and an occasional coyote can be seen. Something caught my eye. There was a large black cat running. But it wasn't a house cat. This was the size of a large coyote. It had a solid body. Long tail. He was flying. I was mesmerized. I would have pulled over and took pictures with my phone but he had already cleared the field and into the next woods. He covered a lot of ground quickly. There is a new park called Sweet Arrow that this field and woods back up to. This was so awesome but scary too. I have seen a bobcat in those woods but a black panther? I like to mushroom in the spring in those woods. Guess I will have to think about it now a little different.

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  22. 2/16/17 Summerside, Ohio around 1-2AM a large car, long tail crossed in front of me. I turned the car with blights on and it turned to look back it was definitely an exotic LARGE cat! Leopard build. I've never heard of such a thing in a neighborhood, but the more I look at reports of sighting the more I realize it was a black leopard!

    Today, 2/17/17 a man with a large silver pole was walking around through the neighborhood. If I wasn't alone I'd ask what he was looking for.

  23. I saw a black panther in Sugarcreek while horseback riding years ago, but I will never forget it. I thought he was a black lab at first, but as soon as he moved there was no mistaking it was a huge cat! I did not feel threatened at all so I kept on riding and mentioned it to another rider when I got back to the parking lot. She immediately reported it and the park rangers and police were there in no time looking for it, guns drawn. The panther was long gone, but if I ever am evrr lucly enough to see one again, I will not report it! They told me somone had been selling them as kittens in the flea markets and people would release them when they got too big.