Big cat believer
10 January 2008
A LORNE resident who was a big cat sceptic has now converted after her close encounter with what she is certain was a black panther.
Big cat researcher Michael Williams said reports of sightings during the last six months have been in a similar area and there was a chance some "researchers" who have no evidence of anything will call them "panthers".Most people dont know there is no such animal zoologically speaking and there is no evidence of 'panthers`,ie, melanistic leopards/jaguars in Australia anyway.Big ferals for sure are out there though."Helen Stewart was at her farm in Winchelsea when she spotted the black cat about five weeks ago ``dead on'' 11.05am.
"I still get that yucky feeling in my stomach when I think about it,'' Mrs Stewart said.``It was quite scary because when I first saw it, I was like, what the hell is that and then I said `oh my god, it is a big black cat'.
``Its body was the size of a black labrador and the tail was so long it just dragged along the road and usually dogs' tails stick up in the air.'
Mrs Stewart said she saw the panther from about 20m away and it came from inside a nearby canola field."It just stood there, it didn't move or look side ways and then it just loped off," she said.
``I was a disbeliever but I shouldn't have been. I tell you I was pretty shaken and am not a sceptic any longer.''
Mr Williams said the latest sighting corresponded with several reports mid last year of a big cat was in Inverleigh.
``What's happening is anyone guess.Why speculate and try and come across as an "expert" on an animal we cannot prove."Mr Williams said there were 320 reports in his area alone (NSW)and scoffed at the supposed 52 big cat sightings often quoted by one unemployed local big cat "enthusiast".Williams then stated "our data base is used by the local government.His..has always been around the same figure for about 10 years which is odd....so I doubt it exists outside his head" he said laughing.