It was a "large black cat," a Hemingway man told authorities, that attacked him Tuesday evening, lashing his arms and legs and dragging him into a ditch.

The man told officials that after a cub crossed his path, the beastly feline — about waist high with a "tail that dragged to the ground" — dragged him to the ground by a pant leg and then ripped off his long-sleeve shirt sleeve before trotting away. The cat remained close by, he said, sitting in place as it made what appeared to be crying sounds.

The man, Rickey Wesley Lynch, scurried from the area and phoned 911.

The claim was as alarming as it was bizarre.

"The victim had been attacked by a black panther," a Georgetown sheriff's deputy noted in an incident report.

Never mind the fact that black panthers are not its own species and the term, as National Geographic tells us, can refer to "any big cat with a black coat" — particularly leopards and jaguars, which are primarily native to Asia and jaguars in South America.

Semantics aside, an ambulance was dispatched to the site and the 33-year-old man was taken to a hospital, deputies said.

The Department of Natural Resources was brought in to investigate.

But following what Georgetown deputies described as an hours-long search Monday, officials would soon learn the truth: there was no large black cat.

The encounter with the so-called black panther was fabricated, and now the man at the center of the claim faces criminal charges, authorities announced Wednesday.

Deputies said Lynch ultimately conceded that there was no attack. It was not immediately clear how Lynch came to be injured — the incident report states he had "superficial wounds, which included two scratch marks to his right leg and one scratch mark to his right arm."

Lynch is charged with filing a false police report and breach of peace. As of Wednesday, Lynch was being held at the Georgetown County Detention Center, where he awaits a bond hearing on the misdemeanor charges.

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Reach Michael Majchrowicz at 843-937-5591. Follow him on Twitter @mjmajchrowicz.

Michael Majchrowicz is a reporter covering crime and public safety. He previously wrote about courts for the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton, Massachusetts. A Hoosier native, he graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.

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