April 9, 2014

From TampaBay.com

Lake Wales hunter Byron Maharrey says he was attacked by a Florida panther while he was calling turkeys near Lake Kissimmee in Central Florida. If true, it would be the first recorded panther attack on a human since the 1800s.

March 17 was a cool morning, so Maharrey, 77, was wearing several layers under his camouflage suit. He said that’s what probably spared him from serious injury.

Maharrey believes a big predator mistook him for a turkey.

“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.”

When the animal hit him, Maharrey said, he toppled out of his camp stool and fell on his gun. Just that fast, whatever had jumped on him decided this was no turkey and took off through the underbrush.

“He changed his mind before he bit me,” Maharrey said. The hunter said he caught sight of tawny fur and a long tail before it disappeared, leaving him with a couple of puncture marks on his thigh and a cut on his arm, apparently from the critter’s claws.

Another hunter hidden nearby didn’t see or hear any of it, he said. Maharrey said he waited so long to report the attack to state officials “because I figured nobody would believe me.”

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