Topic: Cats in Louisiana
I need some guidance/assistance from you. Im writing a story based on some of the stories told to me by my late grandmother. She told me of a time when her father and his brother (my grandmothers uncle) went hunting in the Belle River area of Louisiana (a town several miles down from a town called Morgan City). The brother shot off his gun up in the trees just above the fathers head. Well the father spun on his heals and hollered at his brother, What in the world are you doing! Are you crazy? Just as he was shouting at his brother an animal fell from the tree above him and landed within two feet of him. I cant remember if my grandmother said it was a panther or a bob cat or a type of lion wildcat. There are no mountains, so Im sure it could not have been a mountain lion. My grandmother went on to say that as far as she knew that by the 1940s that those types of cats were gone/extinct from the area. Can you help me find out what type of cats (panthers or bob cats or what ever else) were around prior the 1940s. This story happened between 1915 and 1925 in the parish (county) of New Iberia.
Ive Googled a search with no results. Then I found your web site. I home school, so I know my children and I will return to your site often. You really have a great web site. I look forward to hearing from you.
What an interesting project and story! Im going to try my best to help you find the information youre looking for . . .
The three types of cats that are native to North America are: the Bobcat (Lynx Rufus), Canada Lynx (Lynx Canadensis), and Puma (Puma Concolor). I found this out by visiting a site called Big Cats - Source: http://www.bigcats.com/
First, I clicked on World Regions under the heading Feature Topics. Then I chose North America from the eight possible world regions of wild cat species ranges. It gave me the three species I mentioned above. Next, I took those three species and found sources confirming their preferred habitats. Heres what I found out . . .
The following three sources support the fact that Bobcats (Lynx Rufus) have resided in the area youre referring to . . .
The Bobcat will eat almost anything and live almost anywhere, from southern Canada, into the US and in most of Mexico in scrubby country, swamps, arid lands, and woodlands.
Bobcats are found throughout North America from southern Canada to southern Mexico. In the United States population densities are much higher in the southeastern region than in the western states.
In the South bobcats are common in mixed forest and agricultural areas that have a high proportion of early to mid-successional stages. In the hardwood bottomlands of Louisiana, Hall and Newsom found that mid-successional stages on cutover areas, characterized by saplings, vines, and dense briar palmetto, were the centers of bobcat activity.
The bobcat was, and still does, make its home in the area you are researching with no threat of extinction.
The following source explains the habitat of the Canada Lynx (Lynx Canadensis):
The Canada lynx typically occurs in boreal and high altitude forests of the northern United States and Canada. It is a rare year-round resident of boreal forests of northern New Hampshire, and northern and western Maine. McKelvey et al. (1999) summarized lynx habitat preferences in the Northeast, based on occurrence data. They concluded there is a preference for terrain between 250 - 750 m in elevation, with lynx making limited use of terrain below 250 m. Occurrences were rare in dry forests and non-forests, and they avoid wetlands with cattails, oak, maple and hemlock.
This animal would not venture down as far south as Louisiana. Also, they avoid wetlands and prefer non-forests so this cannot be the correct animal.
Finally, the following three sources explain the habitat of the Puma (Puma Concolor) or cougar. The Florida Panther is actually one of 30 subspecies of the cougar. Its scientific name is Felis concolor coryi.
The Florida panther's range is limited to small pockets in southern Florida. It originally ranged from eastern Texas through Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and parts of Tennessee and South Carolina. Florida panthers are most often found in mixed swamp forests and hammock forests. Habitats can vary over a home range, but generally are heavily vegetated. Their daytime habitat tends to be in dense vegetation and covered wet prairies, while at night they use more open prairies and marshes. Panthers are good swimmers and can cross canals, swamps and marshes easily. They also commonly uses human paths as travel lanes and routinely cross highways.
Now, that description seems to fit best with the animal you are describing because of the preferred habitat, and the fact that they like to use human paths as travel lanes, but I wanted to check a couple more sources just to be sure . . .
In the eastern United States, suitable habitat consists of mountains, hilly woodlands, and southern swamps. Dense vegetation, rocky crevices, and caves may be used as temporary shelters.
The above reference actually has accounts of sightings of this animal over the years so that might be of interest to you.
Now, the last resource actually confirms what your Grandmother said about this species being extinct by the 1920s . . .
The Florida panther was formerly found throughout the southeastern United States, but had disappeared from most of its range by the late 1920's. Florida was one of the first states to offer any legal protection to the panther (in the 1950's), and it is now home to the only known puma population in Eastern North America. The population is estimated at just 30-50 adult animals confined to fragmented patches of habitat
(Nowell and Jackson 1996).
So, based on the above information, Id say that the animal in question was most likely a bobcat. The likely-hood of it being a Florida Panther is minute.
Hopefully I have provided enough references on this subject so that you can investigate further if need be. I had a lot of fun researching this, so thank you for the opportunity to help out! Good luck with writing your story and feel free to e-mail us again if you have any other questions. Well do our best to help you.
P.S. Im sure youve probably already been to this website, but just in case you havent, there is a wonderful historical account of New Iberia . . .