Otago Daily Times

Moun­tain bik­ers sight big ‘cat’

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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

 ?? PHOTO: SUP­PLIED ?? The an­i­mal spot­ted by Mark Orr, which he de­scribes as a big cat.
PHOTO: SUP­PLIED The an­i­mal spot­ted by Mark Orr, which he de­scribes as a big cat.

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