Tuesday, March 8, 2011
There was a lot of bad biology reported in the news over the past week. Today let's look at the reports of a Panther in Louisiana, complete with still photos and video.
THIS is NOT a panther. It's a house cat.
How can I tell? First off - size, Second off - proportions, Third - probability.
Look at the mowed grass in front of Kitty. Compare the size to the cat. A Black Panther is going to be either a Leopard or a Jaguar. I've worked with both. They run nearly 3 foot tall at the shoulder and 5 feet long (not counting the tail). Yeah. Don't think so.
Proportions are a trickier topic but the head is too large for the body, the legs and tail are too short. Without anything near for scale the shape still says House Cat to me. Let me repeat. I've worked with both leopards and jaguars (and quite a lot of other types of exotic cats).
Probability. The reports all state the Kitty (and there may be more than one) is not aggressive nor particularly afraid of humans. One guy watched three "panthers" play on his front lawn. That behavior is all wrong. Add that to the fact that neither Leopards nor Jaguars occur in Louisiana and that no one has reported any missing lately and the odds are long indeed.
I wasn't able to figure out how to capture images from the videos that I've seen but let me include these facts. The footprints they show are of a dog. I can tell by the shape (and it's EASY to distinguish between dog and cat tracks if you know the shape differences. You don't look for presence or absence of claws, that's unreliable). I've worked with both leopards and jaguars before AND I've taken classes in tracking. The second bit of video from the area is from a security camera and shows a raccoon. It doesn't even look close to right for a cat of any kind (it's an overhead shot and the animals is short and wide, not long and lean like a cat).
And now for the RANT. The local police are using lots of time and resources to look for this panther. The state's wildlife officials are refusing to join in since there is absolutely NO evidence of a big cat. The police won't take the biologist word for it, though. (Good on the biologists for not wasting the tax payers money!)
[warning: serious snark ahead]
Really? You have a degree in what, criminal justice, but you can better tell if a picture shows a panther than a professional biologist who may very well have dealt with panthers before? Is that arrogance, ignorance, or stupidity? It's the tax payers' dollars paying for the cops to patrol the area looking for a house cat!
Grump, grouse, bad language.
Really, people. That isn't a leopard. It's not a jaguar. It's a house cat. I promise.
And I've worked with both before so I know what I'm talking about, dammit!