The Canadian panther (Procyon crypsis) is a nocturnal mammal found in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba, and in western parts of the Republic of Québec. Adult males can reach nose-to-tail lengths of 80 cm and weights of 25 kg; females may grow as large as 150 cm and weigh as much as 110 kg. Both sexes are covered in long, dense fur, and bear similar distinctive markings: white fur on the face with regions of black around the eyes; a long, bushy tail in alternating bands of light and dark; gray fur elsewhere. Males closely resemble, and are often mistaken for, the related common raccoon (P. lotor).Uleppek, 17th-century Ikatchut Shaman wrote:And Wolf said to Panther, go out into the wilderness, and be fearless, for I have given you my strength. None but I have the power to do you harm now. For as long as you are faithful to my will, this land shall be yours to rule.
Canadian Panther photo courtesy Kristina Wright
Canadian panthers (like the common raccoon) are believed to be descended from the even larger P. californiensis, now extinct, which migrated northward from the western United States at the end of the Pleistocene ice age, and later moved east, likely due to human pressure. Although they are technically omnivores, the diet of the Canadian panther consists primarily of meat, both hunted and scavenged. Compared to other Procyonids, they exhibit complex social behaviors. Groups of 5-9 females, a like number of males, and their young often share a nest. Two females generally remain at the nest at all times; the other adults generally hunt as a group. Canadian panthers regularly attack large prey such as caribou and moose, relying on their superior speed and numbers to bring down the larger. Their only natural predators are wolves.
The oral histories of the Ikatchut, an indigenous tribe native to the area that later became the site of modern Hamilton, Ontario, contain numerous references to the Canadian Panther. The Ikatchut regard the panthers as sacred, believing them to be the favorite servants of their chief diety, the <<Great Arctic Wolf>>. The first recorded sighting made by a European was made in 1677 by French trapper François Minou. It is believed that the Canadian Panther played an important role in the Canadian fur trade of the early 18th century, and that overhunting was responsible for the sharp drop in population that followed. Whatever the reason, by 1725, Canadian Panther sightings had ceased altogether.
Canadian Panthers were believed to be extinct until their rediscovery in 2028, when settlers began to move into previously uninhabited areas as part of the Homestead: Canadia Initiative. Intelligent, agressive, and unafraid of humans, the animals proved to be a major impediment to the program. It was not uncommon in the early years for a homesteader outside at night to be mauled by panthers in the middle of the street, and there are reports of the animals opening the locked doors of houses. Attempts by the Canadian military to control the animals were unsuccessful: the otherwise formidable Canadian cavalry were largely ineffective in the forest, and furious Ikatchut and environmentalists threatened to spark riots in several cities. Ultimately, Canadia was forced, at great expense, to build a wall completely enclosing the settled areas; even so, the Homestead: Canadia initiative was never able to draw nearly as many settlers as was originally intended.
Although the failure of Homestead: Canadia is obviously most significant in Canadian history, it remains an area of interest to Forum scholars. The <<First Diaspora>>, which had begun in August of the previous year, was at its height when the initiative began; The preferred site for the relocated SMBCity was in the lands made available for settlement, but this plan was discarded when the Canadian panther problem came to light. How history might have unfolded if Canadia had succeeded in suppressing the panthers remains one of the most tantalizing "what if" questions in Forum history.