Renee Pilcher

Big cat on the prowl?

GLENWOOD'S David Nelmes reckons he's known all along that the creature that padded stealthily around his water tank one night, leaving muddy paw prints the size of bread and butter plates across his back patio, was a big, black panther.

But he doesn't like being called crazy, so he and a few other locals said nothing about their nocturnal visitor.

It was when The Gympie Times ran the story on Saturday of Colin Rossow with his huge plaster cast paw prints, that Glenwood's secret big paw was outed.

Media across Australia picked up on the story, and yarns about panther sightings have since surfaced from Tasmania to Tiaro.

News crews from near and far have descended on the peaceful rural hamlet.

MARK Ward from nearby Gunalda had his photographs of a “big ginger lion” snapped up in an exclusivity deal with Channel 9.

David and Robyn Nelmes neat acreage property has a line of bamboo down one side; a stretch of freshly mown lawn runs gently down from his back patio to Mount Eaton Creek. From there, it's only a matter of metres to the edge of thousands of hectares of State Forest stretching east to the coast.

Panthers are known to be elusive animals in their natural habitat - even dubbed the “ghost of the forest”. If something secretive and nocturnal wanted to keep a low profile, the outskirts of Glenwood is the perfect place.

“I probably wouldn't have told anyone,” Mr Nelmes admitted, “because people don't believe you, but I thought it was a big black cat right from the go.

"I took photographs, I measured each paw print and the length of stride, I even sketched them.”

Not having plaster on hand to make a cast, the Fleming Road resident says he took all his documented evidence into a Gympie vet.

“He reckoned it was too big for a dog. I even got a neighbour's big husky to stand near the prints and she didn't come anywhere near the size.”

An ex-serviceman and experienced tracker, Mr Nelmes said from toe to toe, the stride measured 130cm. He thinks there's plenty of plausible ways panthers could end up in the Queensland scrub.

Author of a soon to be released book Big Cats in Australia, Mike Williams agrees. But he dismisses the American Serviceman panther mascot theory with: “there's never been a shred of evidence”.

He thinks escapes from circuses, animal parks, and releases by private owners are more likely explanations. He's adamant big cats are out in the Australian bush, but says most big paw prints do turn out to be large dogs.

The crucial clue, he says, in distinguishing dog prints from those of a big cat, is the rear plantar lobe.

“Cat prints have three curves while a dog just has an upside down C but in block form,” Mr Williams told The Gympie Times yesterday. Meanwhile, the only cat - big or otherwise - The Gympie Times crew saw in Glenwood yesterday, was a tin silhouette of a black moggy welded to a mailbox.

But if the spoor marks are anything to go by, “Big Paws” is definitely out there.

Who knows, maybe it was quietly watching the comings and goings from the not-so-distant state forest tree line.

Gympie Times


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