Myself and 4 others have just had a similar recent experience. 5 people heard the "animal" but 2 actually observed it and were able to describe it to an animal control office in substantial detail,(head, color, body size, tail etc.), the result of focusing a 2 million candle power flashlight on it.
The sighting was duly reported to the DNR and their official position is that the N. GA population of mountain lions vanished several decades ago. The DNR also says there is not a wild population of any large cat (other than bobcats) in this area.
Several years ago, a "Florida Panther" was shot and killed by a hunter in Troup County GA, a fair distance from their known habitat in South Florida. That is the furthest north in Georgia where there is positive proof of this type cat. DNA tests were done on the dead cat and it is suspected that particular cat migrated north from the S. Fla. population.
The only other positive proof came last year in Alabama when a hunting camera captured the image of a suspected panther or similar cat. It's worth noting that Alabama, along with some other states do allow certain citizens to keep large cats as quazi pets so the black panther might be one of those. It turns out that there are breeders of these type cats in Missouri who are allowed to sell them to citizens of other states where keeping them is legal.
From Northeast Alabama (not too far from us)
is also form Alabama, folks, that is no bobcat and is not a dog!!!
These big cats are elusive, reclusive, mostly nocturnal, do not like light and when spotted move like the wind. Getting a photo of one of these cats is not only very difficult but also dangerous.
Until there is proof, the State of Georgia continues to contend there are no large cats in this immediate area and they're not about to change their position.
Way too many people insist they have seen this type of cat. Even if you dismiss 50% as crackpots and eliminate 95% of the remaining sightings as something else, I find it hard to believe that 100% of all sightings are wrong.
A few years ago a panther like cat was spotted near where the Coosawattee River meets Carter's lake. The current sighting is not terribly far from that location.
The local animal control officer and the DNR have been terrific in their response but without proof there's really nothing they can do. If you find a suspected paw print of a large cat, the DNR advises to either try to get a mold of it or place a bucket over it to prevent rain from damaging the print and call the DNR. When photographing such a print, the DNR advises to place an object nearby (like a baseball, cinder block etc.) for size reference.
My neighbors know what they saw and the rest of us know what we heard but it wasn't good enough. It may take 1 year, 5 years or more but it's only a matter of time before the "proof" surfaces. Until then, use common sense, keep your pets inside at night and relish the beautiful area we live in, including its wildlife. For the time being, that's all we can do.