Thursday, 14 June 2012

Magnetic Island's panther is back!

Magnetic Island is attracting its fair share of big cat sightings - odd, considering it's sitting 8km off the Australian coast and smack bang in the middle of the islands of the Great Barrier Reef off northern Queensland. For animals that characteristically don't like water, one has to wonder how this particular panther arrived at its destination!

On June 4, around 8.30pm, under the light of a full moon on Monday night, Magnetic Island resident since 1973, Olva, better known as Patti Winn, was walking home when large branches in one of the old mango trees above her began shaking and swaying wildly.

“There was something hefty moving in the branches and as I moved away across the road it moved into another tree (behind the first). I looked back and saw a body form coming down the trunk. I didn’t see the head or a tail but it was as big as a medium sized dog. I panicked a bit. I knew it wasn’t a possum. I just ran home. I just wanted to get inside! I don’t know where it went.”

Suffering from recent shoulder surgery, Patti finds exertion like running painful. Still, she ran.

That is how Patti described what may well have been the very large, mysterious, cat which Magnetic Times has now taken witnesses' accounts of for the third time in recent months.

And while Patti’s story adds to the growing evidence of this strange and alarming creature’s existence, we note that Patti is the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger, Nathan Winn’s mother, and clearly not given to fantasy of exaggeration.

Patti’s other son, Adam, heard Patti’s account and was stunned himself as he had read our previous accounts (Click here). Patti, who was unaware of the articles, was describing something very close to what Adam had been reading about.

QPWS Ranger in Charge, Partick Centurino, has confirmed that another sighting was made at the end of Mandalay Avenue early last week. “A woman who was cycling saw it. She was stopping at the entrance to the Hideaway Estate and could see it next to the entrance to the walking track. It was all black and as big as a small labrador with a cylindrical round tail,” said Patrick.

This sighting was at 5pm and Patrick Centurino said, “It seems to be moving at dusk,” adding, “It’s certainly firming up as a big animal”.

He had also checked for prints but without luck. The area is a type of turning circle for vehicles with many tyre prints.

A large trap has now been set for the animal.

Patrick believes that given the various locations of the sightings in Nelly Bay that the creature may be using Gustav Creek as a type of corridor.

Patrick commented also that for Islanders who come across suspicious tracks, “Cat prints are similar to dog prints but, instead, there is no claw marks as they can retract them while dogs cannot.”

Patrick is keen for any members of the public who make a sighting to contact the QPWS office on 47785378.

In late 2011, a black cat "as tall as a labrador with paws the size of the witnesses" fists was seen by long-time Nelly Bay resident Anne Sustrunck.

On a night in October or November (Anne isn’t quite certain) in 2011, Anne arrived home in her car, driving into the carport beside the house. As she drew to a halt she saw, just four metres away, under the full glare of the headlights, “a soot black cat as big as a labrador but fatter and broader across the chest.”

“The carport light was on and I saw it move into position” which she described as approximately three quarters view towards her with the creature’s face looking in her direction.

“It opened it’s mouth slightly but made no sound. To me it was like a monster.

“It had paws as big as my fist.

“It had big eyes reflecting in the headlights. I swear on the Bible. I just couldn’t believe the size of it! I put on the high beam but it didn’t move. It couldn’t care less.

“It was frightening. I didn’t want to come out of the car. It just stood there and it seemed like hours,” said Anne who agreed that the total time was probably about seven minutes.

“I thought, I gotta do something. I opened the door then really banged it and it slowly, slowly moved off into the back garden.”

“It’s just a stick and wire fence so it could easily escape,” said Anne who took her opportunity to slip inside.

It wasn’t until Anne, who doesn’t use the Internet, was talking to her friend Vicki Barralet when the subject arose. Vicki had seen our article reporting Sabrina’s strange sighting. She showed Anne the article and Anne told Magnetic Times, “I saw the story. I just couldn’t believe it. My God that lady (Sabrina) is right. Everything she said!”

Anne admits however that she really didn’t see or notice the big cat’s tail, a feature which Sabrina described as “unmistakable long tail with a rounded tip”.

What she did notice were the cat’s “funny ears” which she described as “sharp and very hairy, while rest (of the body) was smooth. Anne attempted a sketch of the ears. Anne told her neighbours about her sighting but nobody else saw anything.

While terrifying, Anne agreed that the animal made no attempt to threaten her or was aggressive in any way. But Anne was certain, “It was definitely not a wild (feral) cat. It was something different.”

Anne is now more apprehensive about sitting out in the cool of the evening. “I’m very cautious sitting outside at night” she said.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Officer, Nathan Winn, told Magnetic Times, “We discussed the original sightings but there have been no other reports since then. We’ve had feral cats on Horseshoe Bay Hill but nothing like this,” he said.

People who wish to report unusual animal sightings on Magnetic Island can call the QPWS Office on 47785378.

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