Driving home late one Wednesday night after watching a football game with friends, my brother-in-law saw a “large black cat” walking along the highway at Springwood in the Blue Mountains. When I told him of a freight train driver’s recent night time sighting in the Hawkesbury of a large black cat sitting by the tracks with “green glowing eyes” my usually sceptical brother-in-law quickly changed his tune. He too noticed those eerie green glowing eyes.
Then, several years later while driving home from Orange on a Sunday afternoon, he and my sister both spotted a large black cat sitting by the roadside outside Bathurst. They were both shocked by the size of the animal and agreed that it was far too big to be a feral domestic cat.
Big cat sightings across the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury regions have been reported for over 100 years now. But with more people moving into the wild bushland areas that surround Sydney, big cat sightings are becoming far more prevalent. And not only are these elusive felines making themselves seen in greater numbers, they are terrorising locals, stalking and killing their pets and livestock.
Government & wildlife officials take notice
With the large number of reports from credible witnesses coming in from across the greater Sydney region, the government and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) officials finally had no choice but to begin taking such reports seriously. Scepticism and ignorance were no longer an option when lives were potentially at risk.
In 2003, a NSW State Government inquiry into the “black panther phenomenon” concluded that “more likely than not a colony of ‘big cats’ is roaming Sydney’s outskirts”. One NPWS official stated that: “While we still haven’t got conclusive evidence that the creature exists, compiled evidence points strongly to the fact that it does.” And an expert on big cats involved in the inquiry, Dr Johannes Bauer, concluded that: “Difficult as it seems to accept, the most likely explanation of the evidence . . . is the presence of a large feline predator.”
But this wasn’t the first time the NSW State Government had taken black panther sightings seriously. In May 2001, a successful Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that the government had been keeping a secret black panther file.
And the NSW Premier changes his tune
Further evidence that big cat sightings throughout greater Sydney were being taken seriously by the government came in September 2008 when then NSW Premier Nathan Rees told reporters gathered in Penrith at the base of the Blue Mountains that: “I don’t think it’s necessarily an urban myth. There are too many people reporting sightings.”
The Premier had had a quick change of heart, however. Just one month earlier, as NSW Water Minister, he had said that the “black panther is an urban myth”. But after reading a letter from a Hawkesbury resident who had compiled a database of over 600 recent sightings from local residents, the Premier became far more open to the possibility. “Of particular concern is if there are little kids out there and there actually is one of these things,” he told reporters. “It is easy for all of us to dismiss these things … but if we’re actually wrong then there is an altogether different set of scenarios.”
Victorian government joins the hunt
In January 2011, the Victorian State Government joined the hunt with the State Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh confirming the government’s pre-election pledge for an investigation into the numerous unconfirmed sightings over the past decade.
Had a big cat sighting? Tell weirdaustralia about it. Fill in the Contact form or leave a comment.
Big cats in the media
Over the years, the media has brought the black panther phenomenon to the attention of the wider, and often sceptical, public. In January 2010, tabloid current affairs program Today Tonight aired a segment on big cats…
More black panther sightings soon
Over the coming weeks I’ll research some of the more spectacular sightings and reports and post them here.
If you’ve had a big cat sighting, weirdaustralia would love to hear about it. Fill in the Contact form or leave a comment.
Big cats not a tall tale, The Sun-Herald – 2 November 2003
Panther may be no urban myth, says Premier, Sydney Morning Herald – 19 September 2008
Baillieu’s boys join big cat hunt, Herald Sun – 28 January 2011