Latest 'big cat' sighting in Gympie region
IF IT wasn't for the bang of the screen door, Curra resident Milan Katic would most likely have footage of a wild cat the size and look of a puma wandering through his property.
Mr Katic was relaxing on his back deck last Wednesday afternoon when he spotted a large shiny black creature creeping through tall grass on a neighbouring property.
He watched it as it slunk into the open, about 15m away, unaware of the human watching it.
"I could see clearly what it was," he told The Gympie Times.
"It was no cat and no dog- it was a big cat," he said, and 'closely resembling a puma.'
He said the animal, which he described as about 80cm tall with shiny blue-black fur, large eyes and a tail as thick as a man's ankle, took off and leapt the fence.
It's not the first time Mr Katic has sighted an animal from the big cat family in the wild. While visiting a friend in rural Victoria a few years ago he came upon one sunning itself in the early morning, only it was bigger, which makes him think his unusual Curra visitor is not fully grown.
University of Queensland veterinarian Bob Doneley said while he couldn't be certain, he believed it was highly unlikely panthers would be living in the black blocks of Gympie.
"There's no real substantial evidence that they exist," he told The Gympie Times.
"If there was a breeding colony of big cats on the Sunshine Coast or Central Coast someone would have seen them."
He said legend tells us that the American Army in the second world war used pumas and panthers as mascots that were released into the wild when soldiers left their Australian postings, but he said if true those big cats would have died out by the 1960s without enough mates to breed.
He attributes 'big cat' sightings to dogs or large feral cats.
"A big black tom cat could easily be mistaken for a small panther," he said.
"Feral cats are getting bigger," he said.
"Normal cats weigh about 4kg but feral cats can get up to 15 kg and stand 50cm tall.
Mr Doneley said the feral cat had evolved in Australia over the last 200 years.
"They're a dangerous animal. They're still the same species but have developed and evolved in a geographical and environmental climate very different from that of a domestic cat."
He also believed it is unlikely any 'big Gympie cats' could be zoo or circus escapees, given the strict regulations travelling shows are held to.
Big cat or feral tom, Mr Katic said the animal did make you stop in your tracks.
"You get a cold sweaty feeling. It's like when you come across a snake by surprise in the bush. It was just that feeling."