Otago Daily Times
Mountain bikers sight big ‘cat’
CHRISTCHURCH: There has been another sighting of a big cat in Canterbury, this time in Hanmer Springs.
Over the years, there have been reported sightings of big cats in Canterbury, Otago, Southland and Marlborough and in North Canterbury last month.
Mark Orr was mountain biking through Hanmer Forest Park in Hanmer Springs on Sunday with one other person when he spotted the animal.
‘‘We had to pick our bikes up and lift them over a fallen tree. That’s when we saw [the cat] up about 50m ahead.’’
Mr Orr said the animal turned back to look at them before turning and heading deeper into the forest.
‘‘It looked very strong and was quite stocky. It just had an aura about it. When it looked back at us we could hardly see its face, because it was jet black.’’
Mr Orr said he was convinced the animal was not a dog.
‘‘It was definitely not a dog and I have never seen a cat this big. It was about knee height.’’
After spotting the animal, the pair decided to quickly turn back, not wanting to get any closer.
‘‘It was a long way away at that point but still very daunting.’’
There has been a reemergence of reported sightings of big black cats in recent months.
A sighting was reported at the Halswell Quarry last month followed by one in Heathcote Valley.
Various reasons have been given over the years to explain why or how the big cat is in Canterbury.
Following a sighting in Christchurch, an older man recalled an incident from when he had been working at the port in Lyttelton during World War 1.
In 1915, a ship from America was being unloaded. On board the ship was a cargo of animals bound for Australia.
One of the cages was accidentally broken open, allowing its occupant, a pregnant female puma, to escape. It was last seen running towards the Port Hills.
Apparently, officials made little attempt to catch the cat and it seems likely that no search was conducted.
A closeup sighting of a large cat by Kaiapoi resident Frances Clark created national headlines in July 1977.
It was thought a tiger might have escaped from Orana Wildlife Park in nearby Harewood, or from the circus that had visited a week earlier.
The search found no trace, and all cats from the zoo and circus were accounted for. — The New Zealand Herald