Thursday, February 24, 2011
Black Panther Hunt
In my native area there are a few mountains that are said to be haunted. Many times at night you can hear the screams of women coming from deep with in the mountain forests. This is not from some aberration, but from wild cats, panthers to be exact. 40 years ago it was pretty common to see a black panther coming up into peoples back yards and stealing chickens and such, but in more modern times you do not see them any more. That is because they have retreated deeper into the forests. The logging industry in West Virginia has a rather disgusting habit of completely stripping the land, bull dozing up the stumps and leaving a tangled mess of roots and broken limbs that nothing can get through. They also do not replant trees. They get away with it because they are based out of state so they simply don't pay the fines and in 80 years when there is finally a little growth to replace it they come back and do it all over again. Needless to say I hate the logging industry. (coal mining and natural gas too) It is because of this destructive behavior that we lose so many natural treasures. According to the West Virginia DNR the black panther is extinct in our area, but many people say they have seen them today whilst out on their four-wheelers. They have even been spotted in the nearby scenic highway area. Why would the DNR make this claim when so many people have spotted the animals? It's pretty clear if you think about it. If an animal thought to be extinct suddenly reappeared then the logging industry would not be able to strip the land as they do. So to protect their source of income they "persuade" the DNR to say there is nothing out there.
One spring break I decided I wanted to go out and try to find definitive proof that they were out there and so I set out to one of these nearby haunted mountains. After about 3 days of hiking back into the mountains i had started to find tracks and scat (fecal droppings) but it started to rain one evening so I set up camp for the night. As I was sitting in my tent I could hear the cries of wild cats. They were close. I had hoped to set out the next morning to find where they had been. Late in the night I felt something weighing down on my chest. I awoke to find it was my tent, which had collapsed due to the rain turning into snow and building up on the top. Unfortunately my college sucks in that it always takes its spring break like two or three weeks earlier than other colleges, to keep kids from going to the big spring break bashes. While it keeps kids out of trouble, it also means we usually get snowed in for spring break unless we were smart enough to dip out as soon as our last class was over.
I had to get up a few more times that night to knock the snow off my tent and the next morning I beat feet out of the mountains. I gathered up everything that offered warmth and water and left the rest so that I could get out as quickly as possible. There was around two feet of fresh snow from that night and it was still white out conditions during the day. Luckily I had planned for cold weather and was wearing polypropylene long under wear and sweater which I had kept when I left the guards. I also had cans of Sterno cooking fuel and my heavy goose down sleeping bag. I really had no problems with the cold. My real problem was water. Since I was moving fast I was sweating a lot and I had to drink a lot of water. There were a few times when I had to stop and melt snow to get more water, but thanks to the Sterno that was no problem. With the help of my GPS and my good health I made the three day hike back in about nine hours. Granted the trip in I was in no real hurry so I had only traveled about fifteen miles and I took a more direct route out.
After the spring time had really set in I went back with my brother to try and get the gear I ditched, but some one had been through and took it. We did walk up on a bear on the way in, though. That was a pretty cool thing to see. I have only ever walked up on maybe five bears in the wild in my time out there.
One day I may return and get the proof that those wild cats are still out there but for now they are still "extinct."
Posted by FranklinR at 9:19 AM