'Panther' reports put Mauldin on watch|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|10/18/03 at 18:45:57|jon_downes|xx|0||'Panther' reports put Mauldin on watch

Posted Friday, October 17, 2003 - 6:24 pm

By April M. Silvaggio and John Boyanoski

MAULDIN No one is exactly sure what the creature is.

But over the last week, authorities have received at least three unconfirmed
sightings of what folks are describing as a large black cat creeping near the
edge of wooded areas southeast of Mauldin.

The possibility that a wild feline is roaming close to several suburban
neighborhoods in the vicinity of Bridges and Holland roads is being taken
seriously, Mauldin Police Chief John Davidson said Friday.

From the description he has received, the animal could be a puma, cougar or
mountain lion.

Officers have notified residents of Riceland Springs subdivision, as well as
officials at nearby Mauldin Elementary, Mauldin Middle, the Golden Strip
Career Center and Mauldin High School.

They've also placed a trap baited with raw meat in the area.

Carolyn Miller, who lives near where the cat was sighted, said her
six-year-old Golden Retreiver, Frack, has been barking, snarling and raising his fur for
several days as he looks toward a field behind her house.

"All the dogs around here have been barking," she said. "It's not coming into
our yards."

While she hasn't seen it, Miller said she isn't letting her two children out
of the house without supervision.

Pumas, cougars and mountain lions normally are light-colored, said Bob
Wilson, associate director of the Greenville Zoo. But he said there are exceptions.

He said he has heard of several reports of a "black panther" being sighted in
southern Greenville County and in Laurens County. But Wilson said there is no
one distinct species of wild cat called a black panther.

"It could possibly be a cougar, puma or mountain lion," he said. "That is the
animal that when people talk about a black panther they are generally talking
about. What this animal may be in Mauldin, Lord only knows."

Wildlife officers believe the animal could be some sort of exotic pet that
escaped from its home, but no one has reported such a loss, said Capt. Buddy
English of the state Department of Natural Resources.

"The initial reports do indicate that the cat is significantly larger than a
domestic cat," Davidson said. "And from what I'm told, those animals have a
very large roaming range."

A resident of Wild Rice Drive told police that she saw the animal in the
woods near Riceland Springs. Two police officers also reported seeing "a large,
unidentified black animal" about 2 a.m. near some woods on Holland Road.

"Officers have since checked the areas again without locating the animal or
being able to either discount or substantiate the sightings," Davidson said.

Officials said Friday they are continuing to look in the vicinity of where
the animal was first sighted, but so far they have found nothing.

Authorities said anyone who sees the animal shouldn't get close to it, but
should dial 911 immediately.