FOR over a hundred years big cats have stalked Kangaroo Valley.
They scare people, kill stock and leave big paw prints.
However, when it comes to being photographed, they are very shy.
A new book, Australian Big Cats – An Unnatural History of Panthers, looks into the phenomena of panther sightings.
The authors, researcher Michael Williams and journalist Rebecca Lang, have collected stories about big cat sightings for over a decade.
They theorise that the cats could be the descendants of escaped zoo animals or World War II American military mascots. They could also be mutant monstrous moggies or perhaps marsupial lions never died out.
Various scat and fur samples sent off for analysis have come back as felis catus – domestic cat. The authors weren’t impressed and decided to test the experts with some genuine leopard fur. The result – felis catus – proved science could fail.
Other experts have taken panther sightings seriously and various government departments, including the NSW Department of Primary Industries, have compiled reports. They concluded that more evidence needed to be collected.
Former Kangaroo Valley resident Doris Blinman was responsible for reporting panther sightings in the early 1980s.
During the period her yard was visited up to three times a week by one or two huge black cats for a period of a few months.
According to Mrs Blinman, the cats came both at night and in daylight and delighted in eating the fruit from her grapevine as well as eating local wildlife, including a fruit bat.
Ms Lang said there were some interesting aspects to Mrs Blinman’s story, including a “smell of sulphur” associated with the sightings.
Another local, Clarry Hansen, also sighted big cats and paw prints with a 13 to 14cm diameter.
In 1981 the two shared their stories with a Channel 9 news crew.
“It’s a reasonably well-forested area, with plentiful food sources and also being well populated could account for more people seeing panthers,” said Ms Lang.
The last local panther sighting may have been the last forever.
On New Year’s Eve 2008, a local resident reported driving past a “deceased large feline” on the side of Forest Road.
A Sydney man also saw the deceased animal by the side of the road on the same day.
In a hurry he did not stop, but returned the next day where he could find no trace of the feline.