Exotic park director trying to capture leopard

Wednesday, April 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MAYSVILLE, Okla. (AP) _ Joe Schreibvogel thought he was going on a ``wild-goose chase'' when Garvin County authorities called him about a panther sighting.

But the director of the G.W. Exotic Animal Park said he saw the animal in question early Tuesday and confirmed that it was black leopard, which is commonly referred to as a panther.

``I saw him myself. That's the only reason I believe this,'' said Schreibvogel, who said he was trying to capture it.

Black leopards are not indigenous to the United States. There has never been a confirmed sighting of a free-ranging black ``panther'' in Oklahoma, according to the state Department of Wildlife Conservation.

``My hunch is it's a leopard that got away from somebody or somebody released,'' said Schreibvogel, whose park is located near Wynnewood.

The Garvin County Sheriff's office got a call from a Maysville woman who said the animal attacked her car.

Dana Stanberry, 28, said she was leaving her mother-in-law's home north of Maysville at 11:30 p.m. Monday when the panther jumped in front of her car.

``I just froze,'' she said. ``I was scared to death.''

The animal roared and placed its front paws on her hood, Stanberry said. The animal stared at her and then started pacing along the driver's side door before leaving, she said.

She described the animal as having emerald-green eyes and being ``so black it looked purple in the night.''

Schreibvogel saw the animal later near a hay barn. The leopard does not appear to fear humans, which could mean that it has been in captivity, he said.

A trap baited with a live chicken has been set for it, Schreibvogel said. If the leopard is caught, state wildlife officials will decide where it will be kept, he said.