NEOSHO, Mo. – A deputy shot and killed a 50-pound feline — a jaguar or leopard that may have been dumped by its owner — after a woman reported the animal pawing at her door.
The origin of the well-fed, declawed black cat remained a mystery, but authorities said it did not appear to have been living in the wild.
It took repeated shotgun blasts and several bullets from Cpl. Donn Hall's .45-caliber handgun to bring down the cat Monday after it twice charged at him, the Newton County Sheriff's Department said. Hall was not injured.
"He fired on it and wounded it," said Capt. Richard Leavens. "It ran past him to the end of the driveway and then came back at him."
James Dixon, a biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the animal appeared to have been well-fed, even fat, perhaps from having been kept in a cage. But its stomach seemed empty, he said.
"He could have just been coming around looking for a handout," Dixon said. "Who knows what it was thinking?"
The woman had called the sheriff's office to say a "black panther" was on its hind legs at her door. "Most of the time when you get a call like that, you're like, 'OK, whatever,"' Leavens said.
There was speculation the animal might have been on the loose in the wake of the recent tornado damage in the region.
"This most likely was a kept animal that either had been dumped out or had gotten away," Leavens said.
Dixon said more research, such as skull and teeth measurements, is needed to determine whether the animal is a black leopard or a black jaguar. Jaguars are indigenous to South and Central America and parts of the southwestern United States, but black ones are practically unheard of in the U.S. Black leopards, which look similar, are native to Africa.