Fe­line the love for Hills

Avon Valley Gazette - - NEWS - Sarah Brookes

MYS­TE­RI­OUS sight­ings of large black cats prowl­ing the Perth Hills have resur­faced after a res­i­dent claimed to have seen one of the elu­sive beasts in Chid­low last month.

Mt He­lena res­i­dent Lisa Speyer said she was pick­ing up her son when she saw the big black cat.

“I’m not talk­ing about a do­mes­tic- size cat, I’m talk­ing about pan­ther- size,” she said.

“It moved dif­fer­ently to a dog, was crouched like a cat and had dis­tinc­tive eyes.

“In the 43 years I’ve lived in the Hills I’ve never seen any­thing like it.”

The sight­ing prompted a flood of res­i­dents to share their own glimpses of big cats in the re­gion.

Swan Val­ley res­i­dent Vanessa Rick­man said she saw a large black an­i­mal on Toodyay Road near Mo­ran­gup.

“A mas­sive, black pan­ther- type cat ap­peared near a tree along the edge of a dam,” she said.

Boya res­i­dent Nigel Good­man said his wife saw a black cat the size of a labrador at­tack their pet cat late last year.

“Our cat had the scars to prove it,” he said. Send your pic­tures to mkr@ com­mu­ni­tynews. com. au

“My wife was just 5m away from the an­i­mal, which she de­scribed as sleek and 80cm long, ex­clud­ing its tail.

“In the Yorkshire Moors in Eng­land there are many re­ports of large cats but in my nine years liv­ing here I’ve never heard of such large cats roam­ing this area.”

Vaughan King, founder of the Aus­tralian Big Cat Re­search Group, said it was “be­yond a shadow of a doubt” that big cats were in the Hills.

Mr King, who grew up in Kala­munda be­fore work­ing as a big cat han­dler at Aus­tralia Zoo in Queens­land, said the Dar­ling Scarp pro­vided prime habi­tat not only for feral cats but big cats such as cougars and panthers.

He said doc­u­mented sight­ings pointed to a healthy, es­tab­lished pop­u­la­tion of cougars and panthers, and pos­si­bly black leop­ards, sur­viv­ing and thriv­ing in outer ly­ing ar­eas of Perth.

“The thick bush that cov­ers the Hills would al­low a pop­u­la­tion of big cats to live out its days rel­a­tively in­con­spic­u­ously,” he said.

“It has the three main things a big cat needs to sur­vive: prey, wa­ter and shel­ter.”

Mr King said the big cats were likely de­scen­dants of es­caped cir­cus an­i­mals or US Navy mas­cots.

“I have spo­ken per­son­ally with a cir­cus owner who ad­mit­ted to my face that they had lost nu­mer­ous species, in­clud­ing big cats, into the Aus­tralian bush over the years,” he said.

“Back in those days, an­i­mal move­ments weren’t po­liced very well and if an an­i­mal was lost, more likely than not it was re­ported as de­ceased, of which no proof

Pic­ture: Bruce Hunt www. com­mu­ni­typix. com. au d478697

Mike Grif­fiths be­lieves big cats prowl the Hills.

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