Big cat myth rears its head
When Chesney Vale landowner David Nugent shone a light at his fence-line to scare off wallabies he was met by two eyes starting back — eyes that could not belong to a small marsupial.
The legend of big cats roaming the Victorian outback is not new, and David had head the story many times.
In the past he had taken such tales with a grain of salt, however, a 15-second encounter would make him a believer.
‘‘Wallabies had been getting into my garden causing all sorts of damage,’’ Mr Nugent said.
‘‘Last Tuesday I heard them getting in, so I went outside to scare them off. It was dark, about 10.30 pm.
‘‘I’ve got a big spotlight, so I shone it at the fence-line. I still can’t believe what I saw, two big eyes staring at me.
‘‘They were a real deep red, almost purple, and orange in colour. It was different from any animal I’d seen before. And the eyes were about five inches apart.’’
At that moment Mr Nugent and the unidentified creature turned and ran.
Back inside the house he could not believe what he had just witnessed, and he had no desire to investigate it further, not in the dark at least.
The next morning he ventured outside to have a look at the damage.
‘‘I went over and there was a footprint. A Nugent said.
‘‘It was about four inches across with four distinct pads. It was like any cat’s paw print, only much, much bigger.
‘‘I’m pretty certain it’s a big cat of some sort. Too big to be a domestic cat, way too big. And I’m sure it wasn’t a dog or a wallaby.
‘‘I went over to DELWP and they said it’s definitely not a roo print, but they couldn’t tell me what it was.’’
The legend of the Benalla Big Cat has it roots in the tale of escaped circus animals many decades ago.
When The Ensign shared Mr Nugent’s experience with Facebook it soon became apparent that he is by no means the only local who claims to have seen it. big footprint,’’ Mr
Allison Smith said her family have been farming in Strathbogie for generations and had seen the big cat ‘‘many times’’.
‘‘They come in different colours, black, ginger, and whitish,’’ she wrote on Facebook.
‘‘My young son used to ride his motorbike up in the mountains by himself. He came tearing back one day shaking because ‘there’s a Big Ginger Cat up there and it’s bigger than my bike’. He didn’t go by himself for quite a while.’’
Catherine Warnock commented that she had seen a big cat leap across the road in front of her car in Warrenbayne.
Andy Thomas said anyone who frequented local bushland had either seen one, or knew someone who had.
There were more pragmatic responses with one person posting a motion camera shot of a large Wombat.
There seems to be strong feeling on both sides of whether this creature exists or not.
However, unless photographic evidence exists it is likely to remain no more than a good yarn.
Since posting the sighting to Facebook The Ensign has been approached by a wildlife ecologist who owns 30 motion-controlled remote-sensing cameras.
He has offered to set them up on Mr Nugent’s property, with permission.
We will make that connection and if Mr Nugent is happy to do that we will report back with our findings.
Big print: Although slightly difficult to make out, a large paw print is visible. This photo was taken in the exact spot Mr Nugent saw the ‘‘cat’’ the previous night.
Mystery: Is it possible a big cat is really lurking in bushland surrounding Benalla?