Have you ever been driving along a highway, or walking through the bush, and glimpsed a cat that’s just too big to be you’re run-of-the-mill feline?
Big cat expert Vaughan King will investigate the myth of big cats in the Australian bush in a new documentary, The Hunt. He is asking members of the public who have seen a big cat in the Australian bush in the last two months to report the sighting. The reports will be investigated over the next six months and filmed for the documentary.
The New England and North West region has a long history of oversized feline sightings and Mr King called it a “potential big cat activity hotspot”.
“Emmaville has always been a hotspot in the big cat world with the infamous Emmaville Panther making headlines some 60 plus years ago,” Mr King said.
“We have received multiple reports from that area. Nothing too recent unfortunately, but certainly an area of interest as the sightings seem to come through on a consistent and regular basis.
“A good friend of mine believes they saw a mother with a cub run across the highway in front of him just out of Inverell a couple of years ago.”
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Mr Vaughan said the most common reports were from people driving – often on highways, country roads and through national parks.
“The common denominator with all of those sightings is that they occur while the eyewitness is in a vehicle, which means a sighting could potentially take place anywhere,” he said.
Mr Vaughan said big cats, particularity the species he believes to be here in Australia such as mountain lions, were incredible adaptable animals, that were capable of surviving in a range of different habitats.
“This is why we see sightings reported from dry, arid areas, right through to sub-tropical and temperate rainforests,” he said.
“The only thing that drives them to leave these places, is the inbuilt need to find a breeding partner, which may see them wander many miles in search of a mate.”
Mr Vaughan said animal indicators, or changes in behaviour and body language, were a sign to tread cautiously and investigate further if on foot.
“Animals are very easy to read, especially horses, dogs and stock, and will usually be alerted if a potential predator is in the area,” he said.
“If you notice a herd of sheep or cows standing relatively closely together, facing the same direction looking at something intently, chances are there is something there which has them on edge.
“Horses will clearly be on edge if predators such as wild dogs are in the area, and dogs too will act in either an aggressive or defensive manner if a predator is a threat to them.”
Mr Vaughan is well aware that not every sighting is definitely a big cat.
“There will always be room for error and possible mistaken identity by people who may not see the animal clearly enough,” he said.
“For the most part though, we treat every sighting report with respect and like to give the eyewitness the benefit of the doubt with their individual encounter.”
You can report a big cat sighting here.