It is long past time that federal and state wildlife agencies recognize their existence and start protecting them! You can take a pro-active role by photographing or videoing them to raise public awareness.
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
Photo Above: This is a recent photo of a gray jaguarundi, taken in southern Georgia. I have seen three types here in the Georgia Mountains . . . brownish gray with faint spots . . . spotted like a jaguar . . . and almost black with no spots. The jaguarundi population seems to be increasing. In recent years, they have been seen as far north as Missouri and as far east at the Carolina coast.
Native American Heritage Month
The Great American Lion, which hunted bison, elk and deer in the Georgia Piedmont, has not been seen since the early 1700s,* but the jaguar’s and ocelot’s territory is gradually extending northward of the border with Mexico toward where they once thrived. The jaguar once lived in the swampy lowlands of the Alabama and Black Warrior Rivers, Both the jaguar and the jaguarundi were honored by the art of the Native Peoples, who lived in the great town that is now called Moundville, Alabama.
- The mass killing of bison, elk and deer in Georgia to sell skins to European markets eliminated the protein to support the Great American Lion, but some mountain lions and black panthers survived in more inaccessible regions of the Southeast. I am not sure where the survivors of the jaguarundi hid out – most likely in some large swamp, but I really don’t know.
The Great American Lion was featured in the Creek Migration Legend and described in 1700 by English explorer, John Lawson. It primarily lived between the Savannah and Chattahoochee Rivers. He mentioned that jaguars, ocelots and black panthers were more common west of the Chattahoochee River.
- The Creek Clan and Family name . . . Tiger . . . is a cultural memory of the jaguars that once roamed the lower Southeast.
When archaeologists see an artistic portrayal of a jaguarundi by a Native American artifact, they call it “a mythical Underwater Panther,” because “everyone knows that cougars are not spotted and bob cats have short tails.” There is a myth among Great Lakes tribes of a wild cat that could swim under water, but the jaguarundi is a real animal and evidently was commonplace in Southeastern North America prior to the arrival of European colonists.
All of the states north of Florida claim that mountain lions do not live in their state . . . yet several states have issued hefty fines to people, who shot mountain lions in the wild. It is a ridiculous situation. I have seen a standard mountain lion in back of my former cabin near Amicalola Falls. People farther west have seen black panthers. They were real animals and they still exist.
Southeastern Black Panther
Great American Lion (probably extinct)
American Cheetah (probably extinct)
The Spotted Jagaurundi is probably a diminutive direct descendant of the American Cheetah