THE hunt is on to bag one of Victoria's big cats as a trophy.
The elusive animals are one of the biggest prizes in the state's history - dead or alive.
The Victoria Government's offbeat "desktop" search, launched late last month, has also prompted a frenzy among real-life hunters who want to be the first to solve a century-old mystery.
Hunters using spotlights, dogs, blinds, traps and night vision aids are heading to popular big cat locations all over the state.
The Weekly Times has been told hunters are even travelling from interstate in a bid to bag a cat.
Big cat hunter Simon Townsend said there had been a wave of sightings in recent weeks, as a result of the Government's public search.
Among the thousands of hits being received on his popular big cat website, bigcatvictoria, have been almost 50 recent sightings.
"People like me have always been looking for them, but now there's lots more," Mr Townsend said.
"Maybe they will get lucky," he said.
"I hope they do and make it available for the media and the DPI.
"The chances of them succeeding are remote ... these animals are sophisticated and know how to keep away from people, they've been able to hide out for a long time."
Mr Townsend predicted that the hunt wouldn't last very long.
"It will be the discreet and persistent hunter who will get one, and that could take years."
Sporting Shooters Association spokesman Colin Wood asked hunters to make sure they were licensed and safety conscious especially if they are in unfamiliar terrain and in the dark.
"There is a fairly slim chance of bagging one," Mr Wood said.
"I have heard of a number of sightings from our members who I consider credible so I understand why some people are excited."
Field and Game Australia chief executive Rod Drew said either a farmer or a hunter would be first to see a big cat.
Mr Drew said he was sceptical about the existence of big cats, but he said he had seen feral cats in the bush of enormous size.
"A lot of things can look very different in a spotlight."
Mr Drew also believed it was unlikely any hunters would succeed.
"If they are out cat hunting they are kidding themselves.
"It is going to be a chance sighting if anything."