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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
February 11, 2011     The Catalina Islander
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February 11, 2011

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Catalina's facts, folklore and Fibs THIS WEEK: Return of the black panther? EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part Mysterious Island series on Catalina's "black panther" sightiitgs. BY JIM WATSON In last week's column, 1 high- lighted some reported local sight- ings of a "black panther" or large, melanistic member of the large cat family dating back to the 1970s. This week we take a look at report- ed sightings in more recent times. Local musician Butch Azevedo recalls a memorable day 0nly a few years ago when he was out in the Interior doing some oak sapling monitoring near the Laura Stein Volunteer Camp. While taking a lunch break, he said he and the other members of his group spot ted a large black cat pacing around at a distance of about 200 yards. "It Was not a deer, it was not a buffalo, itwasnot a regular Cat. This thing was huge, probably 200-plus pounds," he said, sway- ing his shoulders back and forth ]n panther-like fashion. In the summer of 2008, J. Gil- ligan was at Little Harbor Camp- ground searching the beach area Poster of the movie "Island of Lost Souls" filmed on Catalina Island and rumored to have brought over live panthers for the panther woman character. for the wayward children of some fellow campers when he came face of the gentlemen asked if we had to face with a large black cat in the panthers or motmtain lions on the dark of night. Island." While walking along the Growing up on Catalina, Her- Whale's Tale, the rocky promi- nandez had heard occasional ru- mars of sightings of black pan- thers on the Island, but never with any specifics. She related this to the guests. The four then told her they had seen what they believed tO be a "black mountain lion" pac- ing along the hill near the Casino, no less. When it was pointed out to the guests that the area is a gathering place for feral cats and that what they saw may have been a rather large specimen of same, one of the men responded with a decisive "no" adding that they all lived in mountain lion country and knew well the difference. "He was positive it .was not a regular cat," said Hemandez. "He said the way it moved and the size of it, that's how they were con- vinced." In the words of Thomas Mag- num, I know what you're think- ing. How could such a critter pos- sibly exist on Catalina? In the 30 million years since Catalina first hung out its shingle, the Island has never been connected to the main- land, not even for a few minutes. Furthermore, the span of the San Pedro Channel has always been considered an impassable bar- rier to the dispersion of large land mammals. For the record, Carlos De La Rosa, the Conservancy's Chief of Conservation & Education, said his organization has no record of any reports, much less evidence, of large members of the cat family on the Island, a scenario he says ig "very unlikely." "Any of the biologists who have been here for a long time don't put much credibility in this story," he said, adding that people who have reported sightings were probably seeing something much tamer, such as a large feral cat or nence jutting into the middle of the harbor, he pointed his flashlight to his left and spotted the critter only a few feet away from him. "The light was on the cat and the cat was looking at me," he said. While he has ruled out that the &t was a mountain lion, it was nev- ertheless one special cat indeed, he said. "It was not a panther," he said. "I'd call it a genetic freak of nature," saying it was probably in the 20-pound range and came up about knee high. During that same summer, he encountered several hunters from Arkansas staying at the same campground that reported a simi- lar experience and asked Gilligan if there were any "black panthers" on the Island. Gilligan gave forth the details. Just last summer, Colleen Her- nandez was working at the front desk of the Gleumore Plaza Hotel when she was approached by two couples staying at the hotel with a J'taiF" tale of their own. "'W-hen they came back from their stroll," said Hemandez, "one perhaps a pet dog. "There are a number of black feral cats up to 15 to 20 pounds in the Interior," he said. "Possibly they saw one from a distance." Our porcine friends may be anoth- er explanation: "Five or six years ago they might have seen pigs," he said, "because some of the pigs were actually black," he said. If, however, for the sake of argu- ment, we say that at least some of the sightings of a black mountain lion are indeed accurate, the most plausible explanation would be that somewhere along the line an exotic pet owner on the mainland grew tiredofhaving his slippers, newspa- pers and Plymouths chewed up and decided to rid himself of"Whis- kers" or "Eldridge" or whatever he called his pet black panther. A person owning such an ani- mal would presumably be of some financial means and might have access to a vessel large enough to transport the animal to Catalina; a thoughtless act that would obvi- ously put many people in danger. Such insensitivity gives one paws. Problem is, given that the av- erage life expectancy of a cougar in the wild is only about 8 to 12 years, this wouldn't explain the span of decades of reports, unless of course (Heaven forbid) there's a whole pride of them out there breeding. There are other, wilder theories as to how a black panther could have found its way to Catalina's shores, but that I will leave for future col- umns after we address the reported sightings "of other "'cryptoids" and generally out-of-place animals-on the Island. Because, as incredible as d black panther prowling the hills of Catalina may be, such a critter pales m comparison to a far more exotic beast said by at least one man to be haunting the hills, NEXT WEEK: No, not Bigfoot! -Got a weird story about Catalina? Send it to dan@ cinew or to Mysterious Island, c/o Catalina Islander, PO Box 428, Avalon, CA DINNER & A MOVIE Join us for dinner at the Avalon Grille or Country Club and enjoy a free night at the moviesl* =Must purchase one entrde at the Country Club or Avalon Grille per movie ticket. Offer not valid with any other offers, through April 24, 20II, The Lady Lancers basketball team keeps rolling, winning its ninth game in a row against the Eagles of Eastside Christian. Playing against the Eagles was a nice break from the pressures of league games. Although Avalon did not take these games lightly, they were able to use them for fine- tuning some sloppy play la(ely. Friday night's game was senior night. Avalon had an opportunity to honor its two four-year letter- man Diana Campos and Sheyla Moreno. "Both ladies were here when we struggled to be respectab!e in our own league to now due to their leadership, we have-become one of the elite in our league. They will be missed tremendously," said Coach Hart. After the festivities the Lady Lancers took care of business and beat the Eagles 48-24. On Saturday Avalon defeated the Eagles 42-30. Val Medina led the team averaging 17 points and 4.5 "threes" a game. The next time you can catch your Lady Lancers is at 1 p.m., today, Friday, Feb. 11, versus Con- nelly. The big match up is at l p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12, versus Saddleback for the right of league champion. Avalon Veteran's Memorial Park PURCHASE A BRICK FOR THE MEMORIAL Contact Dave Gardner (310) 510-1484 or write: Avalon Veterans of Foreign Wars, P.O. Box 1672 Avalon, Ca 90704 H 6 1 Friday, February 11. 2011 ............................ l~e CATAUNA ISLANDER