In case you missed Monday's edition of the Daily Mountain Eagle, we reported on Doug Calvert, a professional critter wrangler from Cullman who is in Jasper searching for a large cat that has been spotted by several residents and could be the prime suspect in a recent dog mauling and a rash of missing domestic cats.
Some residents in the neighborhood swear the fierce feline is a black panther that could tear a person to shreds in a matter of seconds. Calvert seems to think the animal is probably a bobcat or possibly a coyote or jaguarundi. Residents of Heritage Hills that I've spoken to seem to think there isn't a cat at all. One resident told me the scariest thing he'd seen in the neighborhood was the albino squirrel that lives in one of his trees.
I wouldn't be surprised if there is a large cat roaming the area. When I was a child, I spent a lot of time exploring the woods of Empire with my younger brother. Behind our home, there was a large wooded area that led to property owned by a strip mining company. We would spend hours roaming the forest and on a couple of occasions we spotted large cats.
One of those spottings was in a small section of trees that separated our home from our internationally famous aunt and uncle that lived next door to us. We had decided to walk through the woods to pay them a visit. There was a small hollow that we had to travel through and on our way back up the hillside I saw a huge cat. It had to be five to six feet long and was dark gray. It saw us coming in its direction, let out a sort of howl and took off.
That was my closest encounter with a large cat. Other sightings were from a much farther distance. All the large cats I saw in Empire were either gray or tan in color.
The sightings of the possible panther in Jasper and my big cat sightings as a child are only a few in a long line of wild critter sightings in Walker County over the years.
During my time in the Eagle sports department, I remember one day when a Native American man came into our newsroom and asked if anyone wanted to go with him to Nauvoo to search for a bigfoot-like creature that had been spotted in the small west Walker County town. He was quick to point out that he had a tent and several cans of vienna sausages and sardines that he was willing to share with any reporter that wanted to come along. Needless to say, no one took him up on his offer and as far as I know we never heard from the man or the Nauvoo sasquatch again.
Last year, a large python allegedly attacked a woman in Sumiton before slithering away to never be seen again. Mayor Petey Ellis jokingly made mention of the snake and its unknown whereabouts at Tuesday's Sumiton City Council meeting. I can only imagine how large that thing has gotten by now. It's probably the size of a creature in a SyFy original film at this point.
A few years ago, a black bear was the possible culprit for some damaged trees and eaten figs found in the Curry area. At that time, I shared a theory that the real culprit could have been a chupacabra who had migrated to the area. No one ever bought into the chupacabra idea for some strange reason.
A black bear could be the problem in Heritage Hills. If someone only saw a large black animal for a few seconds, it's not out of the realm of possibility. Black bears have been spotted in the Birmingham area twice in recent months.
Those are only a few of the creature sightings that I've heard about. I'm sure there are many more out there and I'd love to here about them if there are. If you're in Heritage Hills, be careful to watch out for the possible panther and certainly watch out for that albino squirrel.
James Phillips is a managing editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.