Big cat sight­ings

Hills Gazette - - NEWS -

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 bare­footer­ or www.big­

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