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Night shot of large cat caught on trail camera in Kent

Big black cat spotted near Southside

By Michael Butler

The reports of large cats have been talked about for years in Alabama. Last week, there was a sighting reported here in Tallassee.

Tallassee city councilman Jeremy Taunton and Gerald Railey were on E.B. Payne Drive near Southside Middle School when they saw a feline much larger than the average stray cat.

"We both picked our kids up that day," Taunton said. "I pulled up behind Gerald. He gets out of his truck. We start conversing. I look out in the distance and see something move. I change my angle a little bit. At first glance I thought it was a hog. It stepped out from behind a tree. I saw about a three-foot tail. It was a big cat."

Initially, Railey was not convinced when Taunton told of what he saw.

"I didn't believe Jeremy," Railey noted. "I thought he was carrying on. As we were talking, it stopped and looked back at us. It was black (with) a big, round head, short, pointy ears and a big tail. It was a big cat, 60 to 80 pounds easy."

Many would call what Taunton and Railey saw as a black panther, although conservationists classify them as a type of mountain lion. According to Outdoor Alabama, the last confirmed mountain lion in Alabama was killed around 1948 in St. Clair County.

"There are skeptics out there that say, 'You're crazy.' But, I know what I saw," Taunton added.

Outdooor Alabama cites that "mountain lion sightings in Alabama are common, but these are probably cases of either mistaken identity or released captives."

"Phillip Davis lives down Rifle Range Road," Taunton said. "He has also seen a black cat. He's a very-well educated man. He went to the zoo and talked to them about it. He said that those cats come from the Florida Everglades and the farther they come north, the darker they get."

What Taunton referenced are called Florida panthers which inhabit portions of the "Sunshine State."

"It was once in a lifetime. Until you see, it's not reality. For me to see it and have a witness, I was excited."

"I was too," Railey concurred. "If Jeremy hadn't been there, I probably would've only told my wife and kids because everybody thinks you're crazy. We both saw it."

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