The existence and range of various big cats -including black ones- in the U.S. is apparently a bit of a mystery, as many such sightings have occurred beyond scientific explanation. First of all, black panthers are not an official species. The Panthera onca is the black-coated jaguar known to the Americas. As far as scientists know, it is unlikely to be found naturally in North Carolina, as their range is known only to extend to the Mexican border of Texas. But there is a species that may explain these sightings. The jaguarundi (Felis yagouaroundi) is a medium-sized black cat which can range all the way from South America up to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Sightings of the species have been reported as far as Florida, Oklahoma, and Colorado and some biologists think reports of black panthers in the U.S. can often be blamed on jaguarundi. But the debate goes further. Black panthers have indeed been spotting all over the U.S. and in North Carolina. Some people believe black panthers in North America are actually a cryptid- a variation of known species that is not established by science. Check out this cryptozoology page about the phenomenon: http://www.newanimal.org/blackpanthers.htm
The jaguarundi cat isn’t hunted for it’s fur that much, it is at risk for decline from loss of habitat. But it is not uncommon to see them while at a man-made structure far from large populations
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