While reports of “black panther” sightings have persisted for years, there is no scientific evidence that such coloration exists in mountain lions.

In fact, most biologists dismiss the possibility.

“Black mountain lions (panthers) do not exist,” according to balancedecology.org, run by a Texas conservation organization. “Black individuals within a species are a result of a condition called ‘melanism,’ the over-expression of the pigment melanin in the skin that creates the dark skin color. Some species of cats, such as the jaguar and the African leopard, exhibit melanism. Mountain lions, however, do not.

“Jaguars are the only large cat species in North America that may exhibit melanism.”

That is backed up by the Mountain Lion Foundation on its website (mountainlion.org).

“Many people have heard the term ‘black panther,’ but these are actually melanistic jaguars or leopards: a genetic trait that makes an individual cat’s fur appear much darker than the usual coloration,” the site reads. “To date there has never been a confirmed case of a melanistic (black) mountain lion.”