9 January 2007
The Press (Christchurch) NZ
Folklore suggests there is a large, black, panther-type animal roaming Mid Canterbury.Now it seems the black beast may have some competition. A huge ginger feline has been spotted stalking hill country further north in the Waimakariri Gorge.
Four hunters reported such a cat gracefully padding along the hills above the gorge as they jet-boated upriver during the Christmas-New Year break.
They could not believe their eyes, so they used the telescopic sights on their rifles to get a better view. Their eyes were not failing them.
It was a huge ginger cat slipping easily among the rocks and tussock.
"It was its tail and the way it moved that gave it away," one of the hunters said.
The cat was about 1m in length and above knee-high to a man. Its tail was about 8cm in diameter and long.Another hunter said it was a "once- in-a-lifetime" thing. There was no trace of the cat on repeat visits.
The hunters said they were stunned at its size.
They were reluctant to reveal the exact location, apart from saying they were heading up the gorge towards "moa country".
Department of Conservation biodiversity programme manager Mike Ambrose said yesterday that he would be surprised if there was an "African plains-type" animal roaming the hills above the gorge.
It was not unusual, however, to come across some large feral cats, particularly if there was a habitat nearby that treated them well.
"Feral cats, depending on their home range, can grow large. It would be no surprise to find a few in the Waimakariri Gorge. There has probably been a feral population of cats there for years," he said.The sighting of the big cat follows periodic sightings over the past 15 years of a large, black, cat-like creature ranging from the Mid Canterbury foothills to the Lindis Pass far to the south.
An attempt is being made to catch the beast on camera by Dunedin-based Mark Orton and film partner Pip Walls.