A Florida man claims he was attacked by a rare Florida panther on March 17 while turkey hunting near Lake Kissimmee.
Hunter Byron Maharrey told The Tampa Bay Times that the panther ambushed him while he was calling for turkeys.
"I was sitting back in some broom sedge, and he heard me calling turkeys," Maharrey said. "Then he saw me move and decided he saw something good to eat."
Maharrey, 77, said the big cat lunged at him with intense force. "It felt just like a rocket hit me," Maharrey said. He had on several layers of clothing to battle the morning cold, which likely helped him from sustaining further injuries.
Whatever it was that attacked him left puncture marks in his thigh and cut his arm. Maharrey waited three weeks to report the attack.
State biologists have not been able to confirm the encounter, because Maharrey's wounds have nearly healed and heavy rainfall has probably washed away any possible tracks of the animal.
If Maharry's account is true, it will be the first recorded Florida panther attack on a human since the 1800's.
Florida panthers are rare these days. The 100-160 panthers that are alive in the wild primarily live in the Everglades and Big Cypress regions of south Florida. Only a handful of male panthers have been found wandering in central Florida where Maharrey was hunting. According to him, a male panther turned up 10 years ago just three miles from where he was attacked.
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Regardless, the big cats are seldom seen and rarely attack humans.
That's probably why Maharrey waited three weeks to report the incident.
"I figured nobody would believe me," he said.
Another hunter that was nearby at the time of the encounter said he didn't hear or see the incident.
And as for the turkey hunt, Maharrey came back empty handed that day.
Do you think the hunter was attacked by a mountain lion? Share your thoughts in the comments section.