Man Attacked by Panther while Turkey Hunting in Florida

Two friends hunting in Florida encountered a rare predator and went on to tell the tale. (Photo: Cook)

Hunter Jason Cook was stalking turkeys in Florida when he was attacked by a very rare predator, a panther. Cook wasn’t hunting by himself, he was with a friend who helped him get to a hospital after the mauling.

Luckily, Cook only suffered slashes across his face and head. Cook and his friend were hunting opposite sides of a leased property.

The panther attacked Cook a few minutes after the friends split up. Cook had been making hen calls but did not hear any toms gobbling.

“About 10 minutes later I decided to make three loud calls,” Cook said, according to Outdoor Life. “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.”

A game warden patched up the hunter before he went to the hospital. (Photo: Cook)

With blood in his eyes, Cook was barely able to see the panther at all. He immediately called to his friend following the attack.

“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.”

Shortly after a game warden approached the two.

“A panther attacked me,” said Cook. “He (the warden) turned ghost white, and started scrambling for bandages to get me patched up.”

The two didn’t have any luck with turkeys, either. Local hunters spotted a panther in the area before the attack and some said that’s why the turkeys were laying low.

Cook found trail camera footage that showed a panther in the area. (Photo: Cook)

“If you talk to enough farmers and landowners down here, they are seeing more panthers,” Cook said. “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.”

Wildlife department officials took tissue and hair samples from Cook’s injuries in an attempt to confirm that it was in fact a panther.

There is one other recorded case of a panther attack in Florida, from 2014, although the Florida Wildlife Commission was unable to confirm it. Former chairman of the board for the Florida Sportsmen’s Conservation Association Byron Maharrey reported a panther attack where he suffered bite and claw marks on his arm and side.

See Also: Four Hunters in Montana Mauled by Grizzly Bear in Three Attacks

“Immediately after learning of the incident, FWC officers visited the individual and took his statement; however, it was not feasible to confirm the details due to the lapse of time from when the event occurred to when the report was made to the FWC,” said the department.

Panthers are typically reclusive and are very rare in Florida. An estimated 240 panthers inhabit the whole state, and they are considered endangered.

Despite the attack Maharrey believes panther should remain protected in Florida, with a caveat.

“I do recognize that they’re endangered, and I absolutely want to see them protected,” he said in 2014. “Unless another one attacks me–then I’m going to eat it for breakfast.”

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About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. Like Thomas Paine, he’s a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

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  • Justin Woodall February 11, 2021, 8:11 pm

    It was a bobcat, fwc confirmed that in incident report.

  • Robert Thomas April 14, 2020, 12:40 pm

    I was attacked by a cougar in Florida. But they aren’t at all rare there, and I did enjoy it…..

  • Bill April 13, 2020, 5:03 pm

    Sometime before 1900, my great grandfather was plowing a field when he was attacked by a catamount(panther). My great grandmother heard or saw the attack and ran to him carrying a large stick of firewood. She then beat the animal off and saved the life of her husband. Thankfully, because I’m here, today! This occurred south of DeFuniak Springs, Florida.

  • Capt. Skip Strong April 9, 2020, 7:44 pm

    Isnt it amazing that the FWC needs to confirm the attack using some method such as DNA.
    I know that if a panther attacked me I certainly would know what it was. The Panther is more than 4 times the size of even a bobcat.

  • Tim Mitchell April 8, 2020, 12:55 pm

    I’m glad that the man was ok because I had a encounter with a big black panther when I was coonhunting 6 of my dogs on Hoover’s mill creek a couple of years ago the cat come up the bank of the creek where I was going to release my dogs and just looked me and my hounds over and it scared the shit out of me and that is the honest truth

  • Percy Hawkins April 7, 2020, 7:04 pm

    I hate when I’m calling Chupacabra and Bigfoot keeps showing up. He’s getting a little tired of it too. He said it better not happen again. He also told me there’s no such thing as a Chupacabra and that I gotta be some kind of idiot to be out there calling one.

  • Bob April 7, 2020, 5:53 pm

    Just a case of mistaken identity… the cat heard the call but couldn’t make out the camouflaged human.

  • Janet Tomkins April 7, 2020, 3:53 pm

    Yup. Cats generally don’t hunt much during the day but I saw a boy scout call in a bobcat in the middle of the afternoon when he was practicing his clucks on his new turkey call. The cat saw us when he was about 50 yards away in the brush, watched a few minutes and decided to go back home. We were just standing on a trail under a tree. If we’d have been camouflaged or in a blind he probably would have come to us.

  • Greg April 7, 2020, 12:44 pm

    Sorry about the Turkey hunter. It’s all territorial. I served thirty years in the United States Army almost twenty in the Ranger Regiment. I retired in 2010 I rarely hunt anymore because of injuries sustained while in service. I only go for Russian boar or the like. Because they are a problem. I use a Marlin 444 so anything I shoot usually drops. I also don’t like the blood sport anymore. I’ve found most trophy hunters to be assholes with a power complex. It’s different than people who hunt for food even if they donate it. I just have a issue with trophy hunters in general. Cowards who have never been shot at. That should be part of the test to get the princess also the shot should be within 100 yards for predators.

  • meeesterpaul April 7, 2020, 11:14 am

    Rare? A friend of mine two kept cougars and two bobcats in Florida. She said “Panthers rare? not when my girl Ginger is in heat. Flip on the flood lights in the backyard and count all the eyes shining back”

    • Brenda Smith April 13, 2020, 2:10 pm

      Cougars and bobcats should not be kept as pets.

  • GaDawg April 7, 2020, 11:10 am

    About 25 years ago, Georgia Wildlife Resources and the Florida equivalent were in partnership to collar Florida panthers and track their movements. The idea was that they would migrate into southern Georgia like the Okeefenokee National Wildlife area.

  • robbe russell April 7, 2020, 11:00 am


  • G.O.A. Patriot April 7, 2020, 10:01 am

    When I lived in a rural area west of Tampa long ago (not rural anymore) late one night I heard a panther loudly make a cry that made the hair on the back of neck stand up! Sounded much like a child screaming in pain but more shrill. What an eerie sound!

  • Nanook April 7, 2020, 9:53 am

    People forget when you are calling in prey, there are other predators out there hunting…better keep your head on a swivel…

  • Steve April 7, 2020, 9:31 am

    What’s really disturbing is that last week a Turkey attacked two panther hunters, but the liberal media will only report what it wants.

  • Larry April 7, 2020, 8:19 am

    It would REALLY be helpful to mention where, in Florida, that this attack occurred. Floridians want to know.

  • Dr. Manarii Tane April 7, 2020, 7:09 am

    Where in Florida did this happen? Glad you are OK.

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