Do black pumas (cougars) exist?

Black Puma sightings

Black Puma sightings. Extracted from: The Eastern Cougar: Historic Accounts, Scientific Investigations, and New …edited by Chris Bolgiano, Jerry Roberts (2005). The page is published on Google Books as a preview. Presumed OK to publish here. This is the link to the page.

Black pumas are melanistic pumas (aka: cougars, mountain lions). They are also called black panthers. Melanistic leopards and jaguars are also called black panthers. Jordan Carlton Schaul of the University of Alaska says that black jaguarundis are also referred to as black panthers. I have never heard of that before. I think he is wrong.

Over the years, there have been thousands of sightings of black pumas. The sightings have never been authenticated. There is no hard evidence that they have existed, or exist today. There are several stories on PoC regarding black pumas. Here is a selection:

Some examples of sightings and reports of black pumas are as follows (yet there are no skins or museum exhibits of the elusive black puma).

  • Reportedly shot in South America;
  • Florida is the where there are most sightings despite the very few (about 100) pumas in that state. Most pumas in Florida are known to the authorities because they are radio tagged. They should know whether one is black and they say there are no black pumas.
  • Old books on biology and exploration have referred to black cougars (see quote below and pictures above and below). However in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries knowledge of wild cat species was less accurate. In retrospect we can see that scientist, even distinguished scientists, were sometimes confused and unsure. The jaguar and puma are both found in South America and the jaguar can definitely be melanistic – dark grey/black. Although the jaguar can be considerably larger than the puma, observers 200 years ago could have made mistakes. The reports – by scientists – seem to have misled people ever since.

“In addition to these local races of puma, individuals of a brown colour, and others nearly, if not quite, black, are sometimes met with. Other specimens may be nearly white; but the statement that albino pumas have been found in the Alleghany Mountains and New Mexico are not authentic.” Harmsworth Natural History (1910, R Lydekker, Sir H Johnston & Prof JR Ainsworth-Davis) p 392:

Black Puma

Confusion as to what the term “black panther” means doesn’t help. Melanistic leopards are called black panthers. Leopards can definitely be black, although the colour is more a charcoal grey with ghost spots. Leopards are similar in size to pumas although a slightly different conformation.

Although there are no wild leopards in America, there are a lot of pet leopards. I expect some to be black and I expect a few of these may escape their compound and roam wild. Are they being spotted as a black puma? This is certainly a possibility.

Min weight (lbs) 55 6468
Max weight (lbs) 176 154267

Also people are interested in large black cats. It is the same anywhere in the world. This fascination with mysterious creatures, and black makes them more mysterious, lends itself to observing large black domestic cats, at a distance, as black panthers.

There are a number of videos on YouTube of black cats that are claimed to be large wild cats. To my eye they are large, black domestic cats.

However, the thousand of sightings do create some sort of credibility as to the existence of the elusive black puma.

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