Feline the love for Hills
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.
“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
Mike Griffiths believes big cats prowl the Hills.