Tests will determine more about panther

Georgia authorities are continuing an inquiry into how a 140-pound panther ended up in Troup County, Ga., where a deer hunter shot and killed it.

"Unless someone comes forward with more information it will be difficult to determine where it came from," said John Bowers, assistant game management chief for Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division.

The hunter, Dave Adams of Newnan, killed the big cat Nov. 16 with a muzzleloader while hunting on public Corps of Engineers land near West Point Lake.

A necropsy -- the animal version of an autopsy -- was conducted by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study Center in Athens, where doctors concluded the cat was most likely reared in captivity.

Its digestive system, for example, was completely empty, indicating it had not eaten in a long time, Bowers said.

"It could mean the cat was accustomed to someone feeding it, and without someone doing that it was unaccustomed to hunting on its own."

The state is holding the skull and hide of the cat pending the outcome of an investigation.

"We're still awaiting the results of some DNA testing," he said.

Such tests can help determine which regional subspecies of panther the cat is most closely related to.

"We still don't know if it's a western cougar, a Florida subspecies or what," he said.

Panthers are presumed not to exist in the wild in Georgia, Bowers said.

Adams faces no charges for shooting the panther.

"He hasn't been charged with anything," Bowers said. "A wild animal, a wild cougar, technically is considered a game animal and there is no season on one, so if it was a wild cougar, it was killed out of season. But if it is an exotic animal that escaped, it's not considered wildlife and it can be killed."

However, if someone should spot another panther, state authorities don't recommend shooting it.

"Our suggestion is, if possible, try to get a picture of it, maintain your distance, don't panic and remain calm," Bowers said. "After it passes, mark its tracks so you can find them again and contact DNR so it can be investigated."

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