State wildlife officers are searching for signs a black panther is on the prowl near Des Moines. Witnesses reported seeing a large black cat with a long tail Thursday near the Polk County town of Bondurant and big tracks were found in the snow. Lon Lindenberg, a state conservation officer, says there’s an important distinction to make — they’re looking for signs of the animal; they’re not hunting for it.He says to search for a cougar is very hard to do and probably wouldn’t be accomplished. Instead, Lindenberg says they’ll take a close look at the paw prints the creature left in the snow and attempt to get an indication of the stride and size of the animal.Lindenberg says cougars, panthers and bobcats are all basically synonymous. He says he’s very skeptical it was really a black panther seen just northeast of Des Moines.He says he’d be truly surprised if it was a black panther — and if it is, it’s more likely it was not a wild one but an animal that escaped from a zoo, facility or private residence.
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