By Miriam Raftery
File photo: Black jaguar
September 1, 2015 (Cedar Creek Falls) – Last year, East County Magazine ran a two-part series on numerous reported sightings of large black wildcats in our region :
Today, we received an email from Chris and Peter Ruth, Forest Service volunteers and trail head hosts at Cedar Creek Falls. “We now have had two reports of a black `cat-like’ animal down by the falls,” they wrote, adding that there is water in the pond though the waterfall is dry this time of year.
Multiple hikers reported seeing a “large black animal” resembling a big cat in a tree near the falls in San Diego's backcountry in Cleveland National Forest between Julian and Descanso. The sightings were reported to the ranger. In addition, the Forest Service volunteers state, “Today, two female volunteers who hike the trail and pick up trash heard growling noises three times. With the drought, we wonder if animals are frequenting the pond to get water.”
Although there are no large black cats native to East County, there have been dozens of reported sightings in recent years, including some from credible parties such as a Border Patrol Agent, a ranger, a military officer and two friends of our news editor. Sightings ranged as far east as Anza and Jacumba and as far west as Spring Valley; sightings in the northern areas included Mt. Laguna and eastern Poway.
Black jaguars are found in northern Mexico so it’s possible that one or more has strayed over the border. Many described the cats as more the size of mountain lions, though there are no documented cases anywhere of black mountain lions or pumas. However, the same was said about black bobcats until very recently, when a black bobcat was killed by a vehicle in another state and the proof of their existence was confirmed.
Other possibilities include jaguarundis, smaller wild black cats found mostly in southern Mexico and central America, or exotic pets that have been released into the wild. Mistaken identity or hoaxes are also possibilities.
Other than the unconfirmed black cat sightings, the only large black animal that is known to occasionally frequent East County is the black bear, though sightings have been rare.
About a dozen black bears, which are often brown in color, not black, resided in the county about 15 years ago, mainly in Julian, Cuyamaca, Ramona and Mount Palomar. After the 2003 Cedar fire and a known shooting of one of the bears, no more sightings were made until recently.
In February 2013, a Border Patrol camera confirmed a black bear crossing a road in In-ko-pah. In the last year, sightings were reported on Palomar Mountain and one outside the Sheriff’s office in Kearny Mesa. East County Magazine has also been advised that tracks that appear to be bear tracks have been spotted in the southeastern portion of our county within the past two years.
If you have any photos confirming a large black wildcat sighting in San Diego County, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with details on where and when the photographs were taken and any other witnesses who can confirm the sightings.