Thursday, 14 June 2012

Sabrina's island cat sighting puzzling

Back in September 2011, CFZ Australia was contacted by Sabrina Tessari, an Italian tourist who had visited Magnetic Island. She emailed us and the Magnetic Times with some very interesting news.

On her visit Sabrina was keen to see the local wildlife, but she was shocked and surprised to see a big black cat on the island - an animal "equal to a black panther". At the time even we were puzzled but open-minded. And now subsequent reports have everyone scratching their heads.


My name is Sabrina Tessari, I live in Italy near Milan, and I returned
yesterday from a trip to Australia, doing a search on the internet I found your
site and I decided to write you immediately.

Between September 16 and September 22, 2011 I stayed in the Bungalow Bay Koala
Village structure in Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island. This is a camp in a
nature reserve. I slept in a bungalow in the back row next to wire that marks
the camp from the surrounding forest. Every day and night in camp I've seen
every kind of animal: kangaroos, wallabies, possums and parrots that I have fed
... but the last morning (it was around 7 and there was already light) as I
found on the veranda of the bungalow I noticed a noise over the wire and
thought it was the usual kangaroo, but I saw an animal that was equal to a
black panther (start by saying that I did not know that in Australia there were
no cats in the wild until then) are remained motionless, watching her walk
slowly for a few minutes near the wire, unfortunately,  his face was turned
towards the forest and I could not see, but the sinuous body with short hair,
shiny, black and stealthy pace, the unmistakable long tail with a rounded tip
have left me in doubt.

Soon after I went to ask the people of the structure (including a ranger) if
there were like animals in the reserve, but they said they were unaware of this
type of fauna. I ask you kindly to give me an answer, it is possible that on an
island in Queensland has come a big cat?

Sure of what I saw, I documented until I came across your site and I hope that
finally someone may now believe.

Is it possibile  the existence on Magnetic Island of a black panther or a big


Intrigued, we replied:

"Thanks for your interesting email. Is it possible that a small island could have a big cat? Yes.

"Is it probable? No.

"You may well have seen one of Australia's mystery cats, as I am sure you can tell the difference between on normal feral cat and something exotic like a panthera."

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.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Hunter's Boolaroo Beast re-examined

The Newcastle Herald blog team revisited the Boolaroo Beast (as we've just decided to christen it) this week online, in a mildly tongue-in-cheek fashion. But we can tell they're secretly impressed.

The photograph below was taken by keen photographer Shane Foreman, and appeared in the book Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers.

Shane Foreman's panther picture, taken in 2007.
Here's their take:

The Lake Panther. Let’s find this baby and get it to a vet, or at least put a bell on it.

That’s our mission, and there’s good news.

Topics’ Panther surveillance unit – Panther Under Regional Review, or PURR – has had a boost. We’ve got an actual panther witness on board.

Shane Foreman snapped this image near Boolaroo in 2007.

We’re a bit stunned. The shimmering coat, the spring-loaded shoulders; they’re way more pantherish than we expected.

What’s more, he insists they’re not Photoshopped.

‘‘I don’t have Photoshop, and believe Photoshop is for people who can’t take photos,’’ he tells us.

Mr Foreman believes he’s seen big cats twice in Hunter woodlands.

The first sighting in February 2007 yielded this photo by the rail line.

A second was near Muswellbrook in October 2009 on a 7000-hectare property owned by a mate. He’s quick to add that while he was hunting at the time he wasn’t drinking.

‘‘Alcohol and guns don’t mix,’’ Mr Foreman says. And so do we.

Sober people also take better photos, so keep that in mind next time you’re snapping the Lake Panther.

Yowieeeeeee! A monstrous mockumentary

We are approached frequently to drop everything and help production companies with their documentaries. And sometimes we do! :-)

We helped these friendly folk with some locations for their yowie mockumentary recently - looks like fun!


Monday, 4 June 2012

Yowie? We don't think so...

Previous analysis by the CFZ's Mike Williams has shown that this image is in fact of a possum on top of a rock! Note the thermal signature of the 'yowie' is the same as the surrounding trees and the rock - mystery solved!

In the wake of a visiting US television show, which claims to have recorded evidence of a yowie bellowing in remote bushland, Australia seems to be in the grip of 'yowiemania' - or at least our media outlets do.

Secret state government files have revealed a yowie man was recently sighted in the Blue Mountains, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The case emerged among almost 60 suspected panther, leopard and big cat sightings from the past decade sitting in the bowels of the government archives and obtained under freedom of information laws.

But just for the record, these reports haven't been sitting in the bowels of anywhere for a decade - they were liberated at least eight years ago and have since been published in Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers, a massive tome that dedicates more than 430 pages to exploring the phenomenon.

After an overseas TV crew last week claimed it had recorded audio of a yowie man in a remote region on the NSW-Queensland border, documents show the Australian version of Bigfoot was also allegedly sighted last year far closer to metropolitan areas at Springwood, west of Sydney.

In an email to National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers, the witness said he had filmed the creature in March last year and taken photos of footprints. He even drew the yowie man's head, pecs, arms and feet on the picture to make it clearer.

"I have had a seven-year history with this creature," the witness wrote.Canberra crypto-naturalist Tim The Yowie Man, who claims to have seen a yowie in the Brindabella Ranges in 1994, said he was interested in the latest sighting.

"The Blue Mountains has been a common spot for big cats, obviously, but it is not unusual for yowies either," he said. "I have no doubt people believe they are seeing something unusual but many can be cases of mistaken identity."

The NSW Environment Department declined to comment last week. Three years after a government study found there was no evidence of the Blue Mountains Panther - aka the Hawkesbury Big Cat and the Penrith Panther - rangers are still receiving sightings of the creatures.

In an unsolved attack last summer, a Bilpin family's pet alpaca was mauled to death by a suspected big cat that later gutted a kangaroo.

"'Big cat' kill report," Hawkesbury area ranger David Monahan wrote in an email to his boss a few days after the attack.

"Victim was a large alpaca, head crushed, 7cm puncture wounds in skull, adult animal, hairs left on wire fence to be brought in today."

In June 2010, a witness claimed to have seen a cat the size of a german shepherd with yellow eyes beside a "roo on side of the road with head missing", a report said.

On July 13 last year, a man wrote to another ranger after spotting "the panther" on a trip home from Singleton a few days earlier.

There are 400-odd claimed big cat cases in recent decades.

And the rest!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Panther talk around Lake Macquarie, NSW

Residents fear a panther is prowling the woods in the border region of southern Lake Macquarie.
A big cat could be lurking in thick scrub around Wyee, Morisset and Lake Munmorah, resident Jim Briggs has told the Newcastle Herald.

Speculation is rife among residents about several big-cat sightings.

Mr Briggs, of Lake Munmorah, said he recently found paw prints in sand in his backyard, which adjoins a state recreation area.

"I thought straight away it was a panther because a few big cats have been sighted around here," Mr Briggs said.

"The paw prints were as big as my hand and I have a bigger than normal hand size."

Mr Briggs said he showed pictures he took of the paw print to National Parks and Wildlife Service officials and they were "astounded".

A ranger later told him it appeared to be the print of a "huge wallaby", but Mr Briggs said there was no way it was a wallaby.

A National Parks spokesman said its officials had been shown the photos but couldn't draw any conclusions.

Mike Williams, of the Australian Big Cats website, said it was hard to tell anything from the pictures.

"I'd love to tell you it's a panther, but it could be a double wallaby print," Mr Williams said.

Mr Briggs said there were other signs of a big cat in the area.

"Not so long ago a workman found a half-eaten wallaby in bush between Wyee and Morisset," he said.

He believed a big cat was near his yard around Christmas.

"My son's dog, a Staffy, sensed something and he came to the door looking absolutely petrified," he said.

"Staffies aren't frightened of anything, but we couldn't calm it down."

Chris Coffey, from Grose Vale in the Hawkesbury area, established a "big cat database" in 1998.

Ms Coffey has recorded 560 big-cat sightings in NSW since then, including at Palmdale, Narara and Gosford on the Central Coast and at Berowra.

Ms Coffey began the database because she had seen a black panther on her property five times.

She said panthers were "leopards or jaguars".

"Years ago you could buy them on the black market for $5000," she said.

"Many people were told to put them down, but they didn't have the heart to do it so they let them go."


* In 2002, a NSW government inquiry found it was ‘‘more likely than not’’ a colony of big cats was roaming Sydney’s outskirts and beyond

* American soldiers brought panthers and pumas (cougars) to Australia as mascots in World War II

* American goldminers brought big cats to NSW in the 1850s

* Black panther sightings in NSW have been happening for decades

* In May 2001, a freedom-of-information request revealed the state government had been keeping a secret file on panther


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