Big cat sightings
was required by authorities.
“I also believe some of the original animals that started the populations we have today were once pets or mascots to military stationed here during World War II.
“When you start looking deeply into the locations of historic military bases and outposts and overlay that with big cat sighting data, it is very easy to put two and two together.”
While the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions would neither confirm nor deny the existence of big cats, Hills naturalist Mike Griffths urged authorities to keep an open mind.
“There are loads of feral cats out there and some are huge, so you can’t blame authorities for being conservative when someone reports they have just seen a panther,” he said.
“But they do need to need to take note of sightings and the public need to document their evidence better.
“Authorities need really good info before they can do anything and what they mainly get is just stories, so they naturally conclude it is likely to be a feral cat.”
Mr King said there were far too many big cat sightings for it to be a case of mistaken identity with a feral cat.
“Feral cats usually max out at around 5-10kg, although some of the bigger feral cats that have been culled have weighed in closer to the 20kg mark,” he said.
“Depending on the species of big cat, they would usually start around the 40kg mark and get up to around 110kg for a fully grown male leopard.”
Mr Griffiths said the bulk of descriptions from sightings in WA pointed to two different species of big cats.
“Robustly-built light-brown animals seemed to be consistent with pumas, otherwise known as mountain lions or cougars, and more slender black animals are consistent with the leopard, which is the true black panther,” he said.
“Several people have told me about hearing powerful screams that fit the puma’s scream and there was one account of people hearing the famous leopard ‘wood saw’ call.
“There has also been evidence of footprints and accounts of sheep and kangaroos being killed, dragged and dirt kicked on them, which is characteristic of several big cat species.
“Dogs don’t do this and few animals can handle such big prey.”
Mr Griffiths said he was not surprised there was no hard photographic evidence of the existence of big cats.
“Most cat species are highly secretive, solitary and largely nocturnal,” he said.
“Most sightings happen fast and it is incredibly difficult to get a reasonable photo and almost impossible to get one to the standard required by scientists and officials.”
Mr Griffiths said it was important potential sightings were well documented.
“It’s important you note the tail length in relation to the animal’s body length, whether the tail was thick or thin, loose or straight or with a curl. These characteristics are key points of difference to a feral cat,” he said.
“Also document evidence of scratch marks on trees, what type of animals are killed or if an animal is killed in an unusual way, such as massive bites behind the neck or clean carcasses left behind.”
Mr King said it was only a matter of time before the presence of big cats in the Hills was proven true.
“The question is, how do we ensure the safety of the general public who have no idea these animals are out there,” he said.
Mr Griffiths said authorities were also cautious about hunters heading bush to try and bag a big cat.
Big cat sightings can be reported to Mr Griffiths at email@example.com or www.bigcats.com.au.