The Florida panther attack is only the second ever recorded in the state
Hunting comes with its own dangers with each trip out into the woods. There’s a good chance that getting attacked by a Florida panther would be low on the list of what hunters worry about since the only attack on a human was recorded in 2014.
As unlikely as it is, it’s not impossible, just ask Jason Cook.
Jason Cook was out hunting for turkeys a few weeks with a friend. The pair were hunting in different areas of a leased turkey property and hadn’t had any luck. Cook made a few calls after he thought he heard a gobbler in the distance.
He didn’t hear anything back.
“About 10 minutes later I decided to make three loud calls,” Cook said. “I made the first two, and just as I went to make the third, I was blind-sided. It felt like someone had hit me across the face with a baseball bat.”
The impact was so hard that his gun flew out of his hands. His face got clawed, leaving multiple gashes that caused blood to cover his face and seep into his eyes.
Despite his wounds, Cook was able to stand up and see the panther as it ran away.
This isn’t the hunter who cried panther
Cook called his buddy who was already waiting at the truck.
“I called him after the panther clawed me,” he said. “He was joking and said: ‘I thought you were going to give it another 15 minutes. It’s only been 13.’ But when I got back to the truck, his mouth dropped wide open. He couldn’t believe what had happened to me.”
His buddy wasn’t the only one who didn’t believe him at first. A Florida game warden quickly responded to the scene but didn’t believe Cook when he said: “a panther attacked me.”
The warden patched Cook up after he reiterated his story of the attack, where he was then taken to a local hospital.
Other wildlife officials were waiting at the hospital to his statement and collect samples, but Cook said he’s heard nothing back from FWC.
Byron Maharrey is the first and only other person besides Cook to have been attacked by a Florida panther. He was also turkey hunting at the time of the attack in 2014 that left him with wounds to his left shoulder and thigh.
Cook had spotted the panther on his trail cams in the weeks leading up to the attack, but it’s not uncommon for them to share habitats with turkeys in some areas.
“If you talk to enough farmers and landowners down here, they are seeing more panthers,” said Cook. “But this was (one of) the first attacks in state history. I am surprised Florida Fish and Wildlife hasn’t said anything about the incident yet, because there has been a lot of discussion about it, especially on social media.”