Black panther spotted

New residents, Steve and April Thompson, recently had an up-close encounter with a black panther.

GRANTSBORO – Steve Thompson, a new resident of our area, sent me an email last week. You guessed it – Thompson had a quick story to tell:

“Last night (June 30) my wife and I saw a very big black panther about to cross Hwy 306. I believe it t was chasing a deer that shot right in front of our truck. Didn’t know we had black panthers down here so that was pretty cool to see, very large but when he saw my truck he jetted back in the woods!”

More than a decade 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 – who died several years ago – was riding her bike on Janeiro Road near its intersection with Kershaw Road in the southeast corner of Pamlico County. 

Bivona quite convincingly 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 that the local habitat, breeding range, and general terrain could never host such a creature. 

Fast forward a couple of years, and then my friend Cody Griffith of Reelsboro, sent a photo – taken all the way back in 2001 – of what he thought might have been a panther. Alas, we could not make positive ID. However, that episode triggered a ton of feedback from readers – all printed in the Nov. 17, 2011, issue of the County Compass. 

Many reported sightings came from hunters who were reluctant to reveal the exact whereabouts for fear others with mal intent – or poachers – might invade the animal’s tromping grounds.

“I stood eye-to-eye with one for a minute and a half,” wrote an avid hunter, who asked to remain anonymous. “He was solid black with bright gold eyes.”

Another respondent, Patricia Ferrara, offered this fascinating recollection:

“My grandmother, Hazel Gallo, was born in 1911. She and my great uncle, Harry Slade, used to tell us kids about a circus boat that came across the river (Bay River), but ran aground or something happened. All of the animals got loose, but they later rounded up most of them except for a male and a female panther that they could not find.  I’m 42, and in the 1980s my great aunt, Grace Daniels, said she saw a mother panther and her babies while she was riding in her car.”

Yes, readers. Black panthers do exist.