DOZENS of people have come forward with their encounters with the long-time local legend of a panther lurking in the bush land around the New England and North West.
On Sunday, a big cat research put the call out for panther sightings in the region, and The Leader has been inundated with stories.
If you’ve seen a panther, a big cat research wants to know. You can lodge your sighting on this map by clicking here.
If you’ve witnessed a big cat in the wild, email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story.
Here are some of the stories we’ve received so far.
Face-to-face in Glen Innes
Bernadette McGuire said she came face-to-face with a panther in Glen Innes, out the front of the old cottage she lived at near the airstrip.
About eight years ago, on a “cold Autumn night”, she head a tapping at the front door.
“I open door, in runs neighbours’ remaining duck and out charges my dog – dog stops and backs up two steps and drops low,” she said.
“I go striding out, off the veranda and onto the grass. As my eyes adjust, I am about four feet away from a black small puma or small panther.
“It was friendly, eyes looking hopeful. I spoke and it stepped forward, expecting a treat I think.
“I showed my hands, seeing no food its face and eyes saddened. I chatted a moment, then it turned and leapt a long way, clearing the fence. It was amazing.
“It was friendly, no threat to my dog or me. I wish I had had a chunk of meat for it.
“The duck? Found it in a back room hiding behind a cupboard. It stayed the night.”
Ms McGuire never came face-to-face with it again, but judging from the paw prints, it passed through twice a year, in Autumn and Spring.
The cobalt blue panther and Copeton Dam
Roslyn Cherry was just 14 we she sighted a panther, but it left her with a last love of big cats.
In 1968, she was hiking on the private property she lived on near the back of Copeton Dam, near Inverell.
“I spotted this magnificent adult black panther on the other side of this creek,” she said.
“I just lay there very still for about an hour with my camera and took pictures. We were just watching each other for the whole time, the big cat was beautiful.
“From certain light angles it looked a cobalt blue colour.”
Bounding the round near Baan Baa
Around this time last year, Sharne Neilson was heading to Tamworth from Narrabri with his brother.
It was earlier in the morning when the pair got a startle driving down a hill near Baan Baa.
“We saw a giant black figure leap across the road in front of us,” Mr Neilson said.
“This thing cleared the road in two bounds, we swear it was a big black cat.
“I thought maybe it was my eyes deceiving me, but my brother also saw it.”
The pair turned around and went back, but couldn’t see anything through the thick bush land.
“Whatever it was moved fast and knew how to hide,” he said.
“There is a rubbish tip on the side of the road it ran from, so maybe it was hanging out there getting a meal. There is also plenty of stock around that area.”
Stalking north of Tamworth
Noel Sadler has seen a big black cat in north of Tamworth twice in his lifetime, both in the 80s.
The first was in the hills west of the Bendemeer area.
“We saw it from the other side of a hill,” he said.
“We walked down to where it was and saw big footprints. A news crew came out and did a story on it, and got vision of the footprints.”
The second time was hunting on a property at night. He even tired to design a motion-triggered camera to capture an image of the illusive beast.
“I build the box but I never finished it – as you can imagine in the 80s, such a thing would have been very expensive,” he said.
“In the 80s there were a large number of sightings in the area at that for about 10 years.”
At the back of Bingara and Barraba
Three years ago, Di Lockrey was caravanning around the region.
On a back road from Barraba to Bingara, not far from the gold dig stopover, she spotted what looked like a panther crossing the road “at a steady pace”.
“It wasn’t very far from us,” she said.
“Definitely a huge feline with the typical tail set of a panther.”
Frank Newbery: My daughter and I seen a big healthy specimen between Quirindi and Wallabadah about 12 month ago, no more then 10 feet off the side of the road.
Megan Hull: I've seen scratchings ... a ringbarked tree... ringbarked about 6 foot off the ground. Up toward Armidale it was. Two years ago.
Rebecca Moore: The road between Pally and North Star.
Sandy Crocker: My dad has seen one between Denman and Jerry’s Plains twice years ago.
John Simon: At halls creek. Watched it for about 30 seconds before it took off.
Damian Reeves: Six weeks ago Saturday night while I was camping at Dalmorton.
Shane Douglas: Hunt 30 years ago I was tracking them. There’s more than one and that was 30 years ago
Betty Aitcheson: Saw them in the Tintinhull area when I was a kid and one on the way to Tingha years ago.
Carmen Minnette: Upper Horton Valley years ago, I seen a huge black type cat from distance.
Karen Angela Medwell: I saw one in Attunga Creek years ago.
Winnie O'Reilly: Saw it in the pine forest above Nundle in 1990.