Are panthers stalking my horses?

Are panthers stalking my horses?

Cheetah paw

Serious title, funny story. It was nice and warm outside yesterday so I thought I’d work on the stalls before dark. I took a load of manure out to the pasture and rolled our wheelbarrow back to the barn where I saw hoof marks in front of the stalls. Interesting. I then noticed what appeared to be a large animal paw print. I couldn’t decide if it looked more like a wolf or a large cat but either way, it was right in front of our horse stalls and that had me worried. Did some predator track a deer to my barn and notice a bigger meal? How do I protect my horses from large predators inside their stalls? Wolves and panthers are very rare in east Tennessee but old-timers and a wildlife official I know here have told me stories of how panthers once roamed this land, less than 100 years ago. Did a few survive? I called Mikki over to see what she thought. After studying the paw prints she said, “It doesn’t quite look like a paw print. It almost looks like a boot print, but smaller.” She’s the smart one, mind you. I inspected my boot and sure enough, the heel matched the “paw print.” Dang, that’s embarrassing. The hoof prints I thought were from a deer? I rested the wheelbarrow in that spot.

Even funnier is what almost happened. I was going to call my wildlife official friend to come take a look. I can only imagine him telling me to head out to the pasture so he could follow the tracks to see where they lead. “Keep your eyes peeled…the tracks stopped right where you’re standing. It’s probably watching us this very minute!” he’d probably say with a chuckle.

No, the only black panther that stalks our horses (and us) is our small black cat, Simon, who loves to dart across the lawn as we finish our night chores. So enjoy a giggle on me and let this be a lesson to us all.

Cheetah photo above by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

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