Monster Monday- Black Panthers in Flint, Michigan

A 140 pound black cat is not what you’d expect to see strolling the streets of Flint but numerous people have claimed to see just that.

Tales of black panthers in Flint date back to the mid-1980s.

On August 13, 1984 three employees at the Fisher Body Plant witnessed a large cat around 8:30am in the alley across from the factory. Four other sightings of a black panther were reported in Flint’s suburbs that same day. (Flint Journal August 14, 1984)

On December 3, 1984 a truck driver in Flint claimed to have almost run over a panther at 6:30AM. He said the cat stopped and looked at him before scurrying off into the darkness. (Flint Journal December 4, 1984)

Also in 1984, a male black panther weighing around 140 pounds was shot at by two teenagers using a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with birdshot.

Mysterious panther sightings are quite common in Michigan even though there are no cats resembling a black panther native to the area. Bobcats (Lynx) are quite small, only about 2-3 feet long and weighing around 30-40 pounds. A cougar is the right size, but light colored with black only at the tips. A black panther is described as a melanistic color variant in large cats but black panthers are actually jaguars or leopards. There has never been a confirmed case of a melanistic cougar (also known as mountain lion) in the United States.

So where do these black panthers come from?

In the book Weird Michigan by Linda S. Godfrey she tells a tale of panthers from The Forest of Doom.

The Forest of Doom is also known as Gogomain Swamp which is twenty five miles south of Sault Ste. Marie. The forest is so thick there that it is thirty degrees hotter inside the forest than it is outside. Supposedly this is where Michigan’s Mystery Cat comes from.

Reports of these mystery cats started in Munuscong Bay in 1954.

But it was the mid-80s when reports of black panther sightings were happening all over the state. In addition to the 1984 Flint sightings there were also reports from Manchester, Wixom, and Coloma. In 1986 a panther was reported to have killed a prized palomino quarter horse in Milford. A cat hunt was on with reports of police and federal wildlife officers having seen the cat but had no luck capturing it.

In February of 1990 a family in Camden caught the panther on video as it prowled their property. In October 1990 there were two sightings near Muskegon.

For a long time things were quiet but in 2012 panthers popped up again.

“A large feline spotted Sunday March 31, 2012 near Grand Court Adrian has been identified by a law enforcement official as a black panther. Trooper Sean Street from the Monroe post of the Michigan State Police responded at 5:51 p.m. to a report of a large feline walking in the field.” (Crytomundo)

In September 2012 the Flint Police Operations Facebook page posted

“ANIMAL COMPLAINT: Lahring and Linden. Look for a very large cat, looked like a panther.”

I heard many stories about the panthers in the Flint in the late 80s and early 90s. One rumor was that there was a breeder in Montrose and the panthers kept getting loose.

Driving down Linden Rd one dusky evening in the mid-90s something large and black ran through the field next to me. I was alone and caught just a glimpse of something large and black dart through the field and disappear into the woods.

Was it one of the fabled panthers? Maybe. Or it could have been a large dog or even a deer that simply looked black in the fading light of dusk.

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