Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on July 15, 2012 at 9:50 PM

 Yet again reports of panther/puma sightings have been making the local papers in Yarra Ranges in past weeks. On February 15th the Free Press Leader reported a ‘great big black panther’ encountered on the Warburton Highway, walking along the roadside. The cat ‘reached the height of the bottom of her car window’ and reflected back big yellow eyes when the driver flashed her high beams to get a better look.

A week later Healesville farmer Ken Lang spoke of both pumas and panthers living in the area. He regularly loses stock to foxes, eagles and the occasional wild dog, but had also seen a large black animal stalking his deer. The panther presence he bases on a neighbour's complaint back in 1980 of finding two chewed dead lambs high in a tree fork, and a later incident of a pony left with big claw marks on its flanks following a failed attempt to bring it down (an incident repeated at The Basin last November with injury to a seven-year-old thoroughbred).

Bernie Mace, an original ARFRA member, added further evidence from within the Shire going back thirty years, and both had spoken to witnesses regarding releases by American soldiers. Both had spoken to people who claimed to have been at the Gippsland farm where a puma and her cubs had been released. Mr. Mace was shown the spot where the animals were released, and Mr. Lang was told that they came up to the farm to be fed for six months before disappearing.

As usual, the report emboldened a number of other witnesses to come forward with sightings from all over the Shire and beyond. And, as usual, a Parks ranger claimed to have no evidence of big cats in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.

In March a cat-like animal was spotted from a garbage truck taking a ten-foot leap up a ridge at Sassafras, followed on 3rd April by a teenager and two companions who heard a low growl in the bushes along the Belgrave-Gembrook Road. She turned to get a partial view of a cat-like animal whose height to her hip or waist set it beyond the range of a giant feral domestic cat.

The published photograph of a cast taken of a paw print appears to me to have the X gap between pads, toe pairs, and the more triangular plantar pad typical of a large dog, an opinion also expressed by a reader. Many similar casts were rejected when the ARFRA collection was moved from Clematis because size alone is not evidence of a big cat presence.

A workshop on print recognition is scheduled for Sat. 18th August 2012.


Categories: None