By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published April 13, 2011

Residents along Lock Hollow and Lecomte roads, in the hilly and heavily−wooded southwestern corner of the county, have reported hearing a wild cat scream or have seen a black panther with a very long tail.

Samford Shirk, a retired law enforcement forensics specialist, saw a black panther with a long, swooping tail cross his property in September. The cat stalked into a recently cleared field about 500 feet in front of Shirk’s home. Shirk grabbed his rifle to view the animal through a scope.

“I’m not an animal person,” said Shirk. “I know the difference between a dog and a cat, and a panther and an elephant.”

In early November, Deni Vormelker awoke at 4 a.m. to let her dogs outside, went back into the house, and then heard something startling.

“I heard this cat noise, and it wasn’t like this ‘meooow,'” said Vormelker. “I don’t even know how to describe it. So I ran out here thinking (the dogs) were going to go chase it.”

Two of her dogs returned, but her 9−year−old dachshund had vanished.

Later that month, Vormelker’s neighbor, Leslie Copes also heard a wild cat scream around dusk, twice within the same week.

“It was just a real sickening cry, and all the neighborhood dogs just started barking,” said Copes.

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