Could this be a black panther?

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By Jeff Aydelette | Staff Writer
(Click images to enlarge) <BR>Photo credit: Robert ‘Cody’ Griffith

(Click images to enlarge) Photo credit: Robert ‘Cody’ Griffith

Several years ago, this reporter wrote a news story about Maureen Bivona’s encounter with what she believed to be a black panther. At the time, Bivona was riding her bike on Janeiro Road near its intersection with Kershaw Road in the southeast corner of Pamlico County.

Bivona swore she had seen a large, black “cat-like” animal crossing Kershaw Road in broad daylight.

After my interview with Bivona, I conferred with both state and federal biologists who explained, quite convincingly, that the habitat, breeding range, and general terrain of our area could never host such an animal.

Yet, several experienced, local hunters quietly confirmed Bivona’s report. However, they refused to go public with their stories for fear that prime local hunting grounds might be closed to preserve an ‘endangered species.’

Other readers called to describe nighttime, plaintive howls unlike those of more familiar local creatures.

Unfortunately, Bivona died about a year ago. I have long wished she had taken her camera along on that biking excursion.

For this reason, the photo above is of great interest, not only to me but also to many in our community.

Snapped in 2002 by Reelsboro resident Robert “Cody” Griffith, who lives with his wife Cee on Halls Creek Road, the photograph depicts the couple’s dog ‘Mickey’ staring across a driveway at what might well be the type of animal once seen by Bivona.

“Mickey was a mix of Scotty and wire-haired dachshund,” explained Griffith. “He passed away three months ago, and we decided to review some of our photos of him. I remember he was going out to his usual spot, but all of a sudden he froze — he didn’t bark. It never occurred to me that he might have seen something – because when I took the picture I did not notice anything unusual. But when Cee and I got to looking over the old photos – we said ‘what the heck is that?’”

My story about Bivona’s sighting generated more reader feedback than any other article I have ever done. And now, the Griffiths’ photo has sparked my interest once again. If you have a theory, story, anecdote – or photo! – about Pamlico County’s real, or fictitious, black panther population, please e-mail jeff@compassnews360.com.

Next week, we’ll print everything that we receive in an attempt to solve this mystery!