The Pocahontas Times
April 15, 1976
If only Cal Price were alive, is what everyone has been saying since Sunday afternoon at 2:15 when a panther was killed in the Jacox-Lobelia area by Kessler Pritt.
Pritt was working on his truck outside his home and saw an animal in his flock of sheep about 50 yards away. At first, he thought it was a dog, but then realized it was a cat animal. It picked up a lamb in its mouth and went over a rail fence down the hill a little ways and started eating on the back leg of the lamb.
Pritt got his gun and came after it. He shot and the bullet from the 3.08 went through the lamb and exploded in the shoulder-chest of the panther; when he saw what it was, he called a conversation officer. Within 15 minutes, several were there.
Conservation Officer Larry Guthries, of Durbin, took the animal to the Department of Natural Resources Office in Elkins.
He stopped off in Marlinton where a big crowd quickly gathered.
The big cat weighed an even hundred pounds. He was a young male, one to two years old, 68 inches long, from nose to tail; tail was 25 inches long.
The dictionary says cougar, puma, panther, catamount and mountain lion are all interchangeable.
We couldn’t put our hands on any panther facts – or even un-facts – but remembered the story of Francis McCoy, who probably killed the last panther killed in Pocahontas before the turn of the century, We checked with his granddaughter, Mrs. Lee Barlow.
Theodore Roosevelt records in his “Winning of the West” that Col. Cecil Clay and Francis McCoy killed a panther, but I can’t find the date.
Col. Clay was a friend and frequent hunting visitor of McCoy on Day’s Run of Williams River. Clay had lost an arm in the Civil War. One hunting trip they treed a panther. Clay steadied his gun on McCoy’s shoulder and shot. The wounded panther fell among the dogs and started mauling them. McCoy rushed in and with bare hands saved the dogs.
As if there wasn’t already enough excitement, Tuesday evening, the report came that another panther was on Bruffey’s Creek. It was bedded down against a fence beneath a rocky ledge on the farm of Norman Walker.
The night before his cattle and sheep had tried to push through the fence and now he knew why.
The DNR was called and soon officers arrived to observe the animal and to keep it from being disturbed. Federal authorities were also notified as eastern cougars are an endangered species and protected by federal law.
Some who saw it thought this one was bigger than the other one and, by the way it acted, a female about ready to give birth. The tail looked about half as long.
At 1 a.m. the big cat was shot with a tranquilizer gun, ran about 80 yards and collapsed. The men got her in a box and took her to the French Creek Game Farm.
A call from Pete Zurbuch Wednesday said a veterinarian verified it was a pregnant female, 65 to 75 pounds. But they question the wildness of the animals because they don’t seem to fear humans and this one didn’t mind the cage.
December 14, 1933
G. L. Auldridge was up from Millpoint the other day and he told me about the big panther that was killed sixty or more years ago at the McNeel cattle scales near Hillsboro. His father, the late Samuel Auldridge, and a man named George had occasion to pass by the cattle scales, and they were surprised to see an immense panther perched up in the scale shed. It was standing, front paws on one girder and hind feet on the other. The big cat stood so still that Mr. Auldridge wondered if it could be alive; maybe it was a stuffed specimen that someone had placed in the shed. Finally the panther moved an ear, ever so slightly.
It was about noon, and Captain McNeel and his lady happened to ride up. The Captain sent George to his house for his rifle. He soon returned but brought only one percussion cap with him. It was debated where best to shoot the beast, whether through the heart or through the head. The Captain said he would pop him one through the eye. He fired and the bullet scammed the big cat’s head, and knocked him off his perch. There was no time to reload even if there had been a cap.
When the panther hit the floor, his long tail went through a crack between the slats on the side of the pen. The Captain dropped his gun and laid hold of the tail. Then the excitement began in earnest. The two other men got clubs and went in to beat the panther to death. The big beast could not pull his tail away, but he could fight back and beat the beat of the club blows with this able front paws, and he offered to bite, too.
Finally an Irishman came up. Being a strong man, the Captain turned the tail hold over to him, with instruction to hold it as if his life depended on it.
The Captain then went in and helped the other two men to beat the beast to death. It measured eleven feet from tip of nose to tip of tail.
The day before, a man named Claibe Grant had been on Williams River looking after cattle for Colonel Paul McNeel. Night had overtaken him, and the panther had followed him into the settlement; he had fooled around until daylight and had sought the scale pen to lay up in during the day.