Local man says black panther getting more dangerous

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This photograph was taken with a smart phone from about 75 yards on the Larry Stluka farm. The animal appears to be quite muscular in the upper body.

This is another photo of the same animal. It looks like a black cat with a long tail. It is hard to estimate the size of the cat from the photo. It also appears as though the front left leg is a stump. Larry Stluka says this is a male adult black panther. (Photos by Austin Mezera)

By Ted Pennekamp

There have been some new developments in the case of the black panther reported to have been seen by some rural Prairie du Chien residents.

The panther (also known as a cougar) has killed several pigs, a calf and probably a Boston terrier, said Larry Stluka, who lives about four miles north of Prairie du Chien along Highway 27. It has also damaged a cow and two other dogs according to Larry.

A panther, an adult male according to Larry, has now been photographed on Larry’s farm. Larry said the panther was photographed by Austin Mezera, 17, who is Larry’s neighbor. The panther was photographed with a smart phone and appears to have only three full legs. One of the front legs appears to be short. It was photographed from about 75 yards away and it is hard to tell how big the cat is in the photo.

Also, a Boston terrier named Tikki, who was previously terrorized by a panther, has now gone missing and is presumed by Larry to have been killed by the black panther.

Larry says there is a female adult black panther in the vicinity of his property with at least two kittens. There is also the adult male, possibly with only three full legs. Panther kittens can stay with the mother for up to the first two years of their lives. Larry says he has seen the kittens as well.

In addition, two teenagers and two children have heard growling on Larry’s property.

A few weeks ago, Larry’s 5-year-old step grandson Miles, along with Larry’s wife, went down a hill to pick mulberries when they said they saw, presumably, the female adult panther at about 10 a.m. from about 100 yards. They saw it for about 10-15 seconds, said Larry’s wife, who wished not to be named in this article.

“I saw something low, black, long and fast,” said Larry’s wife. “There’s no calf that can move that fast.” Larry’s wife said she then found a cow hiding behind a tree because it was scared.

Larry’s wife also said she saw the panther on a previous night at about 10:30 p.m. She had a flashlight, but she could only see the panther’s eyes, which she said where yellowish-green. Larry later walked off the distance and it was about 16 yards.

“It was staring right at me. It turned its head and then looked back at me. That’s when I stepped back and ran to the house,” Larry’s wife said. “Now, I don’t let Miles go out of my sight.”

Larry said his neighbors mostly have had a complacent attitude about the black panthers so far. He also said, however, that one neighbor has told Larry that he is a friend and is willing to help.

Larry said his neighbors haven’t seen or heard any coyotes or raccoons in the area lately. 

Larry has always maintained that he knows not too many people will believe him, but he doesn’t care if they believe him or not. He would like to warn everyone, however, and he would also like some help in trying to photograph one of the panthers on a trail camera, or perhaps shoot one.

“This female is becoming more and more dangerous,” Larry said. “Because she needs to feed her babies.” He said he fears for the safety of children who live in the area.

A couple of Larry's sows have been in a fight with the panther and are now very wary.

In fact, about a week ago, Larry positioned himself about 10 feet off the ground on a skid loader bucket at night and had two firearms. He watched a sow and her piglets who were nearby. There was a yard light that lit up the area somewhat. Larry said the sow sat up on her butt at one point and stared straight ahead for about eight to 10 minutes without moving, which is quite unusual.

He didn’t see the panther or her young, but he did hear them. Larry heard a grunting sound from the mother calling one of the kittens back.

A short time later, a neighbor’s donkey “cut loose” with a lot of noise and awhile after that another neighbor’s dog cut loose, said Larry.

“This is getting serious,” said Larry. “These things can hide in a cornfield, oats or hay. She needs to kill on a regular basis for her babies.”

Larry has been in contact with the DNR on several occasions. He said a biologist in Boscobel has been pretty helpful, but the DNR has only one trail camera available. Larry said he needs several trail cameras, however. He also doesn’t have a computer onto which he could upload any trail cam photos.

Larry said he would like to buy or borrow, for maybe several months, an older horse that can stand for hours and that he could shoot off of.

There is currently no evidence that cougars are breeding in Wisconsin, according to the DNR. Biologists believe the cougars known to have entered Wisconsin are male cougars dispersing from a breeding population in the western United States.

According to the DNR website, no black phases of cougar have been documented in North America, only South America. On rare occasion, cougars and other large cats have a melanistic condition which makes their fur black.

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