Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Another Queensland "Black Panther"

     At last! People are using the "How to report a sighting" function at the top of this blog. On Saturday 15 August this year I received an e-mail form Mark and Bronwyn (Bronnie) Welbeloved [4 syllables] about an experience they had six days before. The site was just outside the Cordalba State Forest, a reserve of 11,000 hectares [about 27,000 acres, or 42½ square miles] which, as the name implies, lies just west of the village of Cordalba. The latter is situated at 25° 10' S, 152° 13' E, and the site itself would have been somewhat to the north of that. The nearest significant town is Childers, to the south. As is appropriate, they each wrote a separate account.

     Mark: On 9th August, at about 5.30 am, we were driving to Hervey Bay. We had been on the road for about 25 minutes from home when I saw a large black animal about 50 metres from us. It came towards us for about three or four steps. When my wife asked, "Did I just see that?", I was trying to work out what I had just seen. I said to her that it looked like a bear or something. It was too big to be a dog or a cat. It looked like it was pouncing towards us. We have both lived on properties all our lives. I know what a dingo, fox, or a feral cat looks like. This was a lot bigger, jet black , thick set about 60 cm high and about one metre long. A very healthy, solid looking animal. [One metre is 39 inches, 60 cm approximately two feet. On the phone he quoted 2½ feet and told me he estimated its height from the red marks on the posts at the side of the road. The animal came up almost next to the car.]

     Bronwyn: On the Sunday morning of 9th August we were travelling between Gin Gin and Hervey Bay. It was between 5.30 and 6 am, and we had just gone past Woco Creek, about one kilometre, when something appeared in the car lights running towards us on the other side of the road, as we came beside it. I said to my husband, "What was that?". He was quiet for a moment, then said, "If I was to say anything, it looked like a bear." It would have stood at least 2.5 feet tall and over 1.2 metres long [presumably, excluding the tail], and glossy jet black. When it turned to run into the bush you could see that it was feline, with a long, black tail that turned up at the end. It was very large and solidly built. There was a sugar cane truck about one kilometre in front of us, but I don't know if the truckie saw it too. He turned off onto Isis Mill Road. On the southern side of the creek is a road that goes to the right, with houses on about 5 acre lots, mostly cleared. Then behind that it goes into dry, thick scrub, which was where we saw it. On the other side of the road is the start of the Cordalba State Forest.
     When it was running towards us, it really did look like a bear. It was that big, and the way it ran was like a bear, with both feet forward at the same time. [This is the normal running gait common to most mammals.] As we came up beside it, you could see a short round head that was unmistakably that of a cat. It had brilliant, bright eyes. On its last jump, it looked as if pouncing off at an angle, and you could see its body was thick rather than slender.

     Comment: If my memory serves me correctly, sunrise was about 6.24 that day, so the sighting took place in the pre-dawn twilight. I was in a similar latitude in the same week, and can confirm that it was far from dark at the time.
     A black panther is essentially a black leopard, or occasionally a black jaguar. The Welbeloveds' animal was well within the size range of a leopard, although somewhat short for its height. Back in 2005, in Gippsland, Kurt Engel shot a black cat which he claimed to have a head-body length of 1250 mm [49 inches], with a tail of 600 mm [23½ in]. For various reasons, I have reservations about those dimensions, but it was certainly big. And it was conclusively proved, by both hair and DNA examination, to have been a feral cat. There are definitely feral cats in Australia as big as the one seen by the Welbeloveds. The major question is why they are always monochrome - either black, or pale. Nevertheless, I am reliably advised that leopard DNA has been detected in Victoria. So there the mystery rests.

     Another Case: They also told me they did an internet search and discovered their wasn't the first such sighting. So here is a report from the Bundaberg News Mail of 30 May 2013.

Woman warns of rogue black panther lurking in the forest

A FEARSOME black panther dwells in the dark at the Cordalba State Forest, and users of the park 'had best be checking over their shoulders' is the message from a local woman who's seen it first-hand.
Laurel Fotheringham is a former resident of Adies Rd, Isis Central and swears she's seen a giant panther among the scrub.
"I was coming in with the big torch at about 8pm at night when I heard a noise behind me," she said.
"I turned to see the full-size black panther standing there between my two rottweilers."
"Ten steps turned into one and I was back inside the house," Mrs Fotheringham said.
"My heart - must have stopped for two days straight after seeing it.
"I used to think it got free of a circus or something."
Though her last sighting of the wild animal was 18 months ago, Mrs Fotheringham said she didn't want to cause too much of a fuss by sharing her encounter.
She said she felt compelled to warn people about the rogue panther after reading in last week's Isis Town and Country that the local mountain biking group and walkers would be using the area more often with their new paths through the forestry.
"I just got concerned with people out there on foot, they're just too vulnerable," she said.
"I lost a Rottweiler that had been opened up in an attack."
Adies Rd neighbour Barbara Thompson said she hadn't seen anything personally, but the stories were enough to keep her checking over her shoulder.
"We've had cattle out there and never seen anything but there are a lot of wild pigs in the area," Mrs Thompson said.
"But it was scary at the time, even just the thought of it."

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The Possum Book

I am pleased to provide a link to a website of a friend of mine, Robyn Tracey, who has written a fascinating story about her dealings with brush-tailed possums in the outer suburbs of Sydney. You can download the book for free, or read it on the site. Go to: The Possum Book.