Sunday, 1 December 2013

Big Black Cats in Southeast Queensland

     I've heard them called zoology's flying saucers, because they turn up where they couldn't possibly be, then disappear before any investigation can be done. They are ABCs: alien big cats. In Australia they are big and black, and tend to be labelled "black panthers", a term I shall retain for the sake of convenience, without conceding its accuracy as a formal identification. Reports are particularly common in Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales but, at the time I wrote my book (1996), I was able to include only a few cases from my home state of Queensland. Since then, however, more reports have arrived - in most cases by people actively contacting me. You have already heard about the black panthers of Tamborine Mountain, and the "pink panther" of Cooyar. Let us now examine a few more case histories.
     The first will be this enigmatic letter from a Mr KJS of Banyo, Brisbane to a young lady investigating the alleged "north Queensland tiger" (See previous post) and dated 9 June 1971.
     I am afraid at present that our memory of our sighting is not very good, as it happened on our visit last year. [But he doesn't tell us where.]
     My wife and I were looking towards the bush, and it was dusk and she drew my attention to the animal. My impression was that it looked like a black panther but it had dirty coloured white stripes - perhaps not distinct stripes. My thoughts at the time were that it was a black panther, or a very dark lioness. My most distinct impressions I can recall were that its head, which was cat shaped, was held as if it was looking at the ground as it walked along, and that its forelegs were thick like those of a lioness and not those of say a dog. In brief it walked and looked like a black panther to me. Of course, I thought that was ridiculous so I wasn't sure what I had seen.
     It was walking as I mentioned and I would say that from memory it took about four or five steps and then it was out of sight. I thought at the time it may have been a black wild pig and left it at that. It certainly wasn't the shape of the domestic pig with big body and short legs, but I thought perhaps wild pigs are leaner and with longer legs, and at the distance a pig's head could be this kind of shape. Its walk was not like a pig but just like a lioness or panther or such.
     My wife's impression was much the same. She thought it looked like a black or near black panther type of animal. Relative in size to a lioness.
Gin Gin (25° 0' S, 152° 0' E) c 1962
This is a letter from Mr Gordon Powell, posted to me on 14 April 1997. When I telephoned him later, he told me the exact site was about four miles outside of Gin Gin.
     Some 35 years ago, in a sugar-cane growing area about 50 km west of Bundaberg, my wife and I were travelling in a farm vehicle heading east. We both saw an animal coming down an incline towards us at a distance of 400 metres or so. We took little notice assuming it to be a calf.
     The animal became aware of our presence when about 200 metres away. It stopped, turned broadside to "check us out" for perhaps 5 seconds. We quickly stopped. I was dumbfounded, trying to believe what I was looking at. After the 5 secs it literally bounded away three or four bounds, leaped over a wire fence about one metre in height and disappeared from sight.
     I've not the slightest doubt the animal was a feline. Black in colour, 75 cm [30 in] in height, body length 105 - 120 cm [41 - 47 in], a  very long tail, curled upwards at the end, a guess at weight would be 75 to 100 kgs [165 - 220 lb], back of animal appeared slightly concave, could not see the head properly as its neck was at right angles, observing us, but in the time I had when the animal became mobile, was of a typical rounded feline head.
     Over a matter of about three months we believed the animal to be in our area, we found 3 or so wallaby carcasses apparently killed, very little eaten, completely gutted and internal organs gone.
Bucca, near South Bingera.
Mr Powell was kind enough to provide me with further leads, with the focus on South Bingera. This is a district rather than a township, close to South Kolan, and about 18 km south of Bundaberg, on the way to Gin Gin. The first is a quote from his letter:
     In an area, "Bucca" about 20 km north of Sth Bingera, some people on a cattle property had lost calves, found killed and gutted about 13 years ago [ie 1984]. Mother and daughter, using a farm tractor for transport, set out, accompanied by two mature Alsatian dogs, to see if they could get some line of the calf losses. The dogs dashed into a thick area of brush and grass, obviously on the scent of something. They returned at twice the speed, pursued by a large black feline. Dogs took refuse under tractor, beast came within 15 metres of tractor and the women were able to observe it from that range. They described seeing the rippling of shoulder muscles as it threatened the dogs.
     The women were Joanne Fagale [fa-gay-lee] and her daughter Melissa, aged 24 when I spoke to her by telephone on 11 May 1997, and read the above paragraph to her. By and large, she confirmed its accuracy. She was about 10 at the time, and was living with her mother and stepfather. The next door neighbours had lost sheep, and they themselves had had three or four calves killed. Initially, they assumed that wild dogs had been responsible, despite the uncanine characteristic of the kills having been gutted. They went out about lunch time, driving through open pasture beside a fence line next to a creek, which was heavily timbered. They saw the cat some distance away in the pasture. When the dogs gave chase, the cat fled into the creek line, then turned upon the dogs, which fled to the tractor, and then home. Miss Fagale could not remember mentioning the rippling muscles, or remember how close it came, but it was close enough for them to see that it was definitely a cat, about the size of a German shepherd, or perhaps a bit smaller, and black.
    She said they drove the cattle out of that paddock and closed it off. They were so scared that they didn't return for a couple of weeks. The dogs stayed away for six weeks or so. There were no further stock losses, but the sheep losses continued.

South Bingera (2)
On the same day, I telephoned Mrs Deidre Porte [por-tee] who, with her elderly father and her young children, lived on a property quite close to Mr Powell's. However, although it was completely cleared, they were only 160 feet [49 metres] from a 57 acre [23 ha] patch of eucalypt forest, and there were lots of similar patches in the areas. They were home to large numbers of feral cats, feral dogs, and dingos, whose howls she often listened to, but they had plenty of native animals, such as wallabies, to feed on. Neither she nor her neighbours had ever suffered stock losses. Indeed, the only predation she had heard of was the Bucca killings just mentioned.
     In July 1996 she found pug mark in the forest, and sent a cast to the Queensland Museum. Inevitably, it found its way to the dinosaur expert, Dr Ralph Molnar, because he was the only staff member interested in cryptozoology. However, he identified it as belonging to a wallaby.
     Thus, Mrs Porte had not seen any big cats. However, one Saturday night in mid-January 1997 ie just three months before our conversation, something remarkable occurred. While sleeping in a well insulated room, she was woken by a very loud snarling noise. She woke her father, and both of them listened to it for about two hours, commencing some time after 2 am. It was a tremendous, deep, guttural growling, but no screaming, coming from ground level in the forest. The animal making it appeared to be moving in a zigzag pattern through the bush. The following night there were two animals making the same sound, from 8 pm to a bit after 9. They were separated by a couple of hundred feet, and there was no doubt about the presence of two. One would reply to the other, and sometimes they would be calling together.
     Well, I didn't hear it myself, and I am no expert on nocturnal noises - except that this doesn't appear to be anything described for the local fauna. However, Mrs Porte was able to consult a friend, who had the calls of big cats on his computer. The closest to the sounds she heard were those of a cougar. She suspects she had been listening to a courting couple.

South Bingera (3)
I had earlier (28 April 1997) telephoned Mr. B, who requested that his name not be cited. However, he lived in South Bingera, on a farm outside some very dense scrub. He emphasized that there was no shortage of shelter for a secretive animal, and plentiful food in the shape of small wallabies, brush turkeys, and goannas, as well as water.
     In early 1995, at about half past three on a perfectly sunny afternoon, he and his wife was siting by the picture window of their farm, which looks north over a gully and an area of thick scrub. Across the gully, about 500 metres away, in a cleared paddock on the edge of the scrub, they saw a big cat moving. They were surprised that it had come out in during daylight, because all the feral cats they had seen in north Queensland were nocturnal. They brought out their binoculars and watched it for three or four minutes.
     As far as size goes, they checked many books, encyclopedias, and videos in the aftermath, and came to the conclusion that it was the size of a puma. A panther would have been too large. (Actually, there is much of a muchness with respect to size.) When asked if they had anything to compare with it, he said that a neighbour had a doberman which often walked in that area. Indeed, a couple of days later he watched the dog and its master walking over virtually the same spot. The cat was much bigger. When I protested that a doberman is a very big dog, he pointed out that it is streamlined, whereas the cat was much broader.
     It was jet black. Nevertheless, he was convinced it was a cougar/puma rather than a panther (ie black leopard). (Black pumas are virtually non-existent.) I asked how he could be sure it was not a large dog, and he replied that the whole appearance of the animal was that of a cat, right down to its long, feline tail. Its whole aspect: its leg muscles and the way it moved, was feline. It was prowling. There was nothing else to compare it to except a cat and, as mentioned above, they checked a lot of books etc in order to identify it.
Further Signting: He never saw the cat again. However, about six months later a quite different animal was disturbed by a bulldozer, but it ran off so quickly he didn't see its face, and was not willing to hazard a guess at its identity. Mrs Porte told me this took place on her property.

Kenilworth (26° 35' S, 152° 44' E) c 1991
According to the map, this is adjacent to a very large state forest. I spoke on the telephone to Carol Rushton, who told me the incident occurred about four years before. She and her husband, Steve had been driving to a remote property near Kenilworth. It was getting dark, but visibility was still fairly good. Suddenly, both of them saw a black panther race across the road in front of them, approaching from the driver's side, and then leap over a cattle fence to the left. It passed just a few metres in front of the car, and the sighting lasted only a couple of seconds. It was very big, and black, and definitely not a dog, but she could provide no further details.
     The irony is that Steve Rushton himself has been investigating mystery animal sightings since the 1970s, and possesses a map with pins designating all the locations where big cats, yowies, and such have been reported. I only hope that some day he will publish his findings on a blog such as this one.

Stony Creek (approximately 26° 50' E, 152° 40' S, just northwest of Woodford) 1990
On 4 December 1996 I was on the radio promoting my book, when a Mr Robert Shirke phoned in and left his name and number, but did not wish to speak on the radio himself. I contacted him that evening. He was a forty-year-old ex-bulldozer driver who told me that he had not reported his experience initially, because he was an animal lover, and did not want shooters going out looking for the beast. It was a commendable attitude but, in this case, inappropriate, because it was obvious that an intrusive pest species was involved. Quiet spoken and very earnest, he told me that, even as he was speaking to me, the hair of the back of his neck was starting to rise.
     As far as he could remember, the incident occurred in November 1990 ie six years beforehand in the Stony Creek area of the Bellthorpe State Forest. The vegetation was very bushy, with scrub, tall trees, and lots of undergrowth. He was riding a trail bike down a dirt track, making a certain amount of noise, when he turned a blind corner - and suddenly found himself in the presence of a black panther. It was walking down the trail in the same direction as him, only 20 to 50 feet away. Immediately, he brought the back wheel down in order to cause the bike to fall over. The hair on his head stood on end. The animal, being equally startled, took off quickly. He had difficulty describing  the gait. It was a trotting, sideways motion, caused by the cat trying to keep an eye on him as it fled. It was running sideways towards the left, while he was on the right. He then righted the bike, turned it round, and bolted, not stopping until he had gone about half a kilometre. He then had a "fit of the frights".
     If his estimate of the height was accurate, it would have been at the absolute upper range for a leopard: a metre [3.3 feet] high at the shoulder, with an elongated body about 4½ to 5 feet in length. He could see the tail, the left flank, and a bit of the head. The tail was trailing, very long and skinny, and curled up a bit. The hindquarters were very muscular. The whole of the body was black, very shiny (he mentioned this several times), and very healthy looking. It resembled a panther, and not a dog, or which he has several.
     He also described the experiences of some friends a few weeks or a month beforehand. In their property at Stony Creek they found a kangaroo carcass with its head bitten off. A few weeks later he was visiting them, and together they explored a steep mountainside on the property, adjacent to the state forest, for a level area to use as a dozer pad. This was secondary scrub, and very steep. In a grass patch they found another headless kangaroo - a very large one, maybe six feet tall. (Probably an overestimate.) He had handled dogs all his life, and knew it would have been impossible for a dog to have dragged it there. (And, of course, dogs do not bite off the heads of their prey. Neither do any native animals, to the best of my knowledge.)

Eudlo (26° 44' S, 153° 58' E)
On Sunday, January 11, 1998, the Sunshine Coast Sunday published the following article on p 8.
Fishermen spot black panther on Eudlo road
by Lisa Kither
First the Buderim Beast and and now the black panther has surfaced on the Sunshine Coast, according o local witnesses.
     Last week's Buderim Beast story in Sunshine Coast Sunday [this referred to a "flap" of striped animals a few years before] sparked a flurry of interest from people who had reported close encounters with mystery creatures.
     One caller, local resident Scott Cash, said he and a friend had seen a black panther in Eudlo recently on their way home from a late night fishing trip.
     "I saw the cat ... it was between 35 and 45 kilos and probably around hip height," he said.
     "We were coming over a hill and on the way down the other side a shadow slinked across the road and it didn't look at the car until it was away from the headlight beams.
     "That's when we saw its eyes, it's the sort of thing that stays with you forever."
     Animal researcher Steve Rushton said sightings of the black panther were more common on the Sunshine Coast than those of the Buderim beast, but it was still generally only three or four times each year.
       Knowing Mr Rushton, I would accept his estimate of three or four per year. Anyway, I managed to telephone Mr Cash on 18 August the same year. He was aged 22 and unemployed, and he presented as a fairly "basic" character, probably not very imaginative or educated.      At first he said it took place "a year and a half ago", but it was apparently more like mid-1997, because it was winter, and cold. He and a friend were driving home after a late night fishing session, and it was about 3 am when, as they were driving over the crest of a hill near Eudlo, they saw the animal in the headlights as they turned a corner near the crest. At first it was just like a black blot on the road, but then it slunk across the road with a fluid manner, which convinced him it was not a dog.  Next, it turned to face them, revealing its big, round, yellow eyes. The sighting itself lasted only a few seconds, but it was close: only 40 or 50 metres at first, reducing to a mere 2 or 3 metres at the side of the road.
     It was jet black all over, somewhat elongated, and rather scruffy looking. He particularly noticed that its tail was just a stump, giving the impression of a bobcat. On being further questioned,  he could not say anything about its hindquarters. He thought there were tufts of hair on its ears. It had a solid head. The face was not elongated. He felt it was above knee height - maybe a metre high and a metre long, but on second thoughts, it was longer than high. (Note: knee high would actually be 55 - 60 cm.)
      He added that his companion, who was sleepy, caught only a glimpse. However, a couple of nights later he saw it again, this time on the flat, and accompanied by a tan coloured cub.

Miles (26° 42' S, 150° 15' E)
I interviewed the witness on 14 May 2001, and was able to inspect the site two days later. Unlike the other cases, this one took place to the west of the Great Dividing Range. Also, I know the witness personally; she is my wife's sister.
     Christine Stiller lives on a farm a sizable distance from Miles. At the time, approximately February 2000, she was working in Miles, and left work about half past five. The sighting would have occurred ten or fifteen minutes later, in broad daylight. Miles ends at a river. Six kilometres to the west, on the south side of the Warrego Highway, stands an historical site, a marker of pioneer graves. The sighting took place about 100 metres before that. The area is open woodland, and at the time the grass was green and lush. At this point the ground dips down about two or three feet from the edge of the bitumen producing, by design or default, a watercourse for the drainage of run-off. Christine referred to it as a "creek", but it would be better described as a depression running parallel to the road.
     She was driving along when she saw the animal feeding off a kill, possibly a kangaroo, in the depression, and immediately backed up for a closer view. The distance was no more than four metres at the very most. It raised its head, and she saw the blood on its muzzle.
     Although, when she later described it to her husband, he told her it was probably a pig dog, she was convinced it was a black panther. It was about the size of a pig dog ie it probably would have come up to her hip, but it was totally black, and sleek, whereas pig dogs are scruffy. There were no pointed ears, and the body and head were thick set. She later showed me a picture of a leopard, and said that the head was exactly the same, except black. Its tail was not dog-like.
     Having examined the site, I cannot imagine how anyone could possibly be mistaken at such close range in broad daylight.

     It should be added that, although alien big cat sightings are well publicized in the southern states, the same is not true for Queensland. The witnesses, in other words, are not interpreting events according to social expectation. On the contrary, it is almost certain that all of them believed their own experiences to be unique. In none of these cases is there any reason to doubt their honesty or powers of observation.
     These are not the only case histories for southeast Queensland - as I shall demonstrate in a later post.

1 comment:

  1. Saw a big Black Cat on Gregor's Creek Road while driving home. Caught it in the headlights which were on high beam, it stopped look at the car and ran in the bush. We travel on this road a lot.

    ReplyDelete

The Possum Book

I am pleased to provide a link to a website of a friend of mine, Robyn Tracey, who has written a fascinating story about her dealings with brush-tailed possums in the outer suburbs of Sydney. You can download the book for free, or read it on the site. Go to: The Possum Book.

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