Cat Attack?

Frank Dhom of rural Jasper County claims the scratches on his horse were caused by a panther or cougar.

Are cougars roaming Jasper County? Some say yes, others have their doubts.

Frank “Frankie” Dhom of rural Jasper County first spotted a mysterious big cat he first described as a panther near his property. That contention has since changed to a dark-haired cougar after additional sightings — mere glimpses — by himself and others.

Dhom claims the cougar or panther attacked his horse in its pasture in rural Jasper County, leaving long scratches on the horse’s hind quarter.

The elusiveness of the feline animal and the darkening of coat for winter is adding to the confusion of exactly what type of animal was seen.

“I thought I heard it; I don’t know what else it could be. This was during bow season about a month ago,” said Chris Collins, Dhom’s neighbor, who added he has never heard anything else like that sound.

Kevin Woods, Illinois Department of Natural Resources district wildlife biologist for the area, isn’t convinced the animal Dhom saw is a panther.

“While I didn’t view this exact case, the evidence doesn’t add up,” he said.

Woods contends while there have been two cases of cougar attacks near the western edge of Illinois, the alleged attack in Jasper County doesn’t follow the cougar’s normal mode of operation.

The attacks in the western part of the state were on sheep, much smaller than the 15-hand tall, half-ton horse, Woods said.

“Big cats would try and get a larger animal around the neck, smaller animals from behind,” Woods said in reference to scratches along the hind quarter of the horse. “I’ve seen some pretty dramatic looking pictures that come from fencing and stalls.”

Dhom, however, is convinced the scratches on the horse were not caused by a fence.

With no lack of opinion on the big cat’s actual existence in the area, an end to the debate seems doubtful. The animals, however large, are quite elusive. They also are known traditionally for being leery of humans.

Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 135 or tony.huffman@effinghamdailynews.com.

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