Big cat tale giving us paws for thought

Renee Pilcher

IT'S enough to make Glenwood dogs leave town: the possibility of a huge feline predator prowling through their backyards. Colin Rossow thinks the spoor marks he found in his back paddock indicate something big - very big - but he's unsure if they are canine or feline in origin. Distinctive claw marks are evident in the 14.5cm long and 13cm wide plaster casts that Mr Rossow took of the paw prints. Philip Briggs in his book East African Wildlife writes that the spoor of feline and canine predators can usually be distinguished by the claws, which in the case of feline spoor marks, are typically “lacking in the case of all cats other than the non-retractile clawed cheetah”.

Be that as it may, the Pepper Road resident leans more towards the big cat theory, saying that to him “the claws appear retractile”.

Mr Rossow has owned his property for a number of years but only moved there some 15 months ago. From the start he said he heard “strange things in the night and I reckoned it was a big cat”. He surmises from the tracks across his spoon drain, that the animal was chasing a kangaroo, both slipping as they tore through the soft going.

“You can see by the tracks that the kangaroo has slipped when it got into the softer soil and whatever was chasing it did the same,” Mr Rossow said.

Similar to the Big Foot, Yeti and Australia's own Yowie legends that have all persisted down through the ages, sightings of big cats or their tracks have surfaced regularly over the years. Yarns of World War II American soldiers releasing their panther mascots into the bush are not uncommon, as are tales of accidental, covered up losses from circuses and lion parks.

Mr Rossow says he knows of sightings of “big black cats” in the scrub around Gin Gin and the northern boundary of Gladstone.

“It doesn't worry me,” he shrugs at the possibility of a large carnivore on the prowl in the nearby state forest, “but, those sort of animals could live out there and people wouldn't know they were there.”

For now, he's quite content to wait and see if the mysterious “big paw” makes a return visit.

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