|An ABC on a night camera|
The Herald Sun is reporting on a photo of a mystery cat that was recently revealed:
"A Victorian man has come forward with a night image of what he believes is a big cat sighted in West Gippsland.
"The man, who did not want to be named, said the photo was taken last August and shows what appears to be a large puma-like cat wading through water.
"It was supplied to Leader after recent sightings by two Yarra Ranges residents who said they had seen big cats in December and April 2016 (Leader, April 18).
"He said there had been many sightings of big cats over the years by farmers, police, rangers and state government officials but authorities wanted the fact kept secret to prevent shooters from running wild.
"Leader received more than 30 emails from people across the country after the latest big cat sighting in Warburton East.
"But the government has refused to say whether they will reopen its investigation into the existence of big cats.
"Don Macrae from Warrandyte said he saw a big cat sauntering past his backyard clothesline on New Year's Day.
"'I recon its head and body would have been close to one meter, and then there was its long tail,' Mr Macrae said.
"'It was dark brownish grey - it looked like a big cat, as seen at the zoo and in books.'
"Alicia Bartle said she spotted a big cat about 5.40am on December 20 at Kelletts Rd, near Wellington Rd in Rowville.
"Dimitri Panteli said in an email he and a friend were camping in the Jamieson State Forest when they saw two black panther cubs.
"'They were cubs in appearance with a jet black coat, pressed face like a cat and a long tail, with very wide eyes,' Dimitri said.
"'My first instinct was to get out of my car to record the animals but as soon as I opened my car door the two cubs shot off the mountain track in either direction.'
"Other people claimed they saw big cats interstate near Richmond, Georges River National Park, Booral and Moama in NSW.
"Victorian locations included Don Valley, the Grampians, two sightings on the Calder Freeway, the Warby Ranges in Wangaratta, Kernot in South Gippsland, the Great Ocean Rd, Mallacoota, Reefton, Hepburn, McMahons Creek and two sightings on the 1000 Steps in Ferntree Gully.
"Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning spokesman Nick Talbot said the department had occasionally received phone calls from people reporting big cat sightings.
"In 2012 the State Government found the existence of big cats in Victoria to be 'highly unlikely'.
"The Arthur Rylah Institute called off the investigation, citing a lack of hard evidence to verify wild big cats in the state.
"The conclusion according to the former Victorian Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh was big cats sighting over the years were large feral domestic cats.
"Long-time member of the Yarra Ranges-based Australian Rare Fauna Research Association Dorothy Williams said she did not doubt the existence of big cats.
"'There are plenty of people convinced and statistically the sheer number and background of those giving reports... they're not silly people, Ms Williams said.
"'I have no doubt about big cats because of the cries I heard, which matched the sounds we had recorded on cd.'
"She said there had not only been reports of black cats but also brown
"'One report from a local gentleman claimed to have seen a black and brown cat mating,' Ms Williams said.And that is not all! The Illawarra Mercury is also reporting a a photo of a paw print of a big cat found near Austinmer, NSW:
"An eight centimeter-long paw print left in the foothills of the Illawarra escarpment has piqued the interest of a roving big cat enthusiast, who believes it proof of panther activity.
"Vaughan King, 30, has deemed Austinmer's Sublime Point track a panther-spotting hotspot and flagged plans for organized surveillance, including a program that would see 24/7 game cameras concealed in area bushland.
"Mr King spent five years employed at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo, working his way up from birds and mammals until he achieved his goal of working as a handler of Sumatran and Bengal tigers.
"His recently formed Australia Big Cat Research group manages a website which maps user-generated reports of big cat sightings Australia-wide.
"Already bound for Sydney for a meeting with a South African big cat expert last week, Mr King spent time combing bushland off Sublime Point track after a visitor to his website sent him a picture of the paw print.
"'I immediately thought it looked like the hind foot of a leopard,' Mr King, of Queensland, told the Mercury.
"'I have lined it up with a known leopard pug mark and it's very similar.
"'A feral cat would never get that big; the animal that would leave that sort of print would have to be between 50-60kgs. And with a dog, you can usually draw a line between the toes and the planter pad and you get a perfect 'X'. Cats have a very different sort of footprint.'
"He found no further sign of any big cat, before an intriguing account drew him to Victoria, vowing to return.
"Sublime Point has produced multiple big cat sightings over the years, including detailed encounters recorded by the Mercury in October 2014 and January 2015.
"Based on the repeated reports, and the now-photographed print, Mr King believes the Illawarra sighings relate to an Asiatic leopard.
"'The reports are generally always of the same size and color, which leads me to think it's an Asiatic leopard,' he said.
"'Asiatic leopards have a melanistic [all black] gene running through them a big more strongly than the African leopard.
"'There's a theory that [the all black coloring] is an evolutionary adaptation to live in the jungle.'
"With the blessing of his lawyer fiancé, Mr King has put paid work aside for the year to focus entirely on investigating big cat sightings.
"He has dropped everything to investigate recent sightings. He says he intends to carry out prolonged surveillance, starting with his preferred hotspot, Healesville, north-east of Victoria.
"'If there's a close second [hotspot] it would be Sublime Point,' he added.
"'There's a lot of weekend warriors that go out and do this sort of stuff, but it's never been taken seriously.
"'There's so many sightings out there it's ridiculous. I'm committing the next 12 months, full time, to basically proving this beyond the shadow of a doubt.'
"Appin resident John Geragotellis took the photograph of the paw print off Austinmer's Buttenshaw Drive, about 40-50 meters north of Buttenshaw Place, on Easter Monday.
"He had seen a report on a recent big cat sighting in the area - attributed to an anonymous onlooker - and says he had this on his mind when he noticed the unusual print among more familiar-looking tracks that appeared to have been made by dogs and humans.
"'It was larger than the dog prints and it looked different, which led me to think it was possibly a cat print,' Mr Geragotellis said.
"'I believe they [big cats] are out there and I would just like to have more information on what species they are and where they range around Australia.
"'I think it's really exciting.'"
|The print - proof of a big cat?|
If there's any more on Australian big cat sightings in the future, I'll update things.