The New Yorker may think the panther allegedly stalking the Palisades is a suburban legend conjured by residents' recession-addled minds to "fulfill some metaphysical or metaphorical craving," but to many residents of Snedens Landing, New York, the beast is real, and tonight they are gathering together at the town hall to determine how they might drive this beast out of their town. Last night, one Robert Samuels circulated an e-mail entreating citizenry to show their support. "PLEASE COME, WE NEED A BIG TURN OUT," he began.
The TOWN has recognized that this is an emergency and they know they need to act. Because it is a controversy we need the numbers.
TUESDAY NIGHT (Tomorrow) at the [ORANGETOWN] TOWN HALL, 7 p.m., the TOWN BOARD will debate the funding for the first stage of finding out more information on the large cat that has been seen by a number of residents and is most likely responsible for the evisceration of several deer, dogs, and cats.
To date, Shane Hobel, a tracker from SFI Tracking, has put in his own time and money and has been the ONLY qualified person who has examined the kills and sightings and has tracked the animal, found scratch marks, hairs, prints, and scat. We have been asking the Town since MARCH for help. Since the cat is known to be here now, time is of the essence. They have a 25-mile range. Fall is coming and food will be scarce. We need to act to avoid a tragedy.
At some point, the meeting will be interrupted by a man from town. A loner, a former veteran with a mustache and a gruff manner known to hunt in the woods surrounding the Palisades. He will walk up to the chalkboard and drag his fingers down it, creating an unnerving squeal to bring attention to himself. "You all know me," he'll say. "I'll catch this panther for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Not like going down to the pond, chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This panther, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant ... You know, the thing about a panther... he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living ... until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then ... ah, then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin' ... and they... rip you to pieces."
The townspeople will look at him. We'll take that under advisement, they'll say. The loner will shrug and leave, and Robert Samuels and the other town eggheads will go back to debating their plan of getting rid of the panther in a humane way.
Mr. Hobel has been given leave from his job to spend the next month full-time on this, and the TOWN needs to pay him and purchase the necessary equipment, which has been researched and presented to the town.
The second phase, if the DEC does not get involved, which so far they have indicated they are not, is to hire a licensed trapper who will place two traps and monitor them (in case we catch a dog or other animal) and then transport the animal to a sanctuary.
But throughout the night and, indeed, in the many fearful nights following, the words of the hunter will never quite leave their minds.