Saturday, 21 September 2013

AUSTRALIA - Tracks of the Big Cat

On the 29th of February,1997 the Macarthur Chronicle published a collection of local big cat sightings going back many years. In a recent case it was reported that a young teenaged girl named Emilly was chased by a panther [1] while riding her horse at the Sugarloaf Horse Centre [2], a place I know well. Throughout this article, I will refer to “panthers” as the original articles did, even though it is not a correct term.
The Sugarloaf Horse Centre is a 220 hectare (approximately 600 acre) heritage listed property on the outer fringe of Sydney. It contains a fresh water canal servicing Prospect reservoir and the ambitiously named Mt. Sugarloaf. The riding centre is one of the oldest continually operating farms in the district, in use since about 1835. It has been spared from the encroachment of the urban sprawl due to a large supply of natural gas and a rich coal seam being mined via Appin.
Could a big cat live here? There would be no shortage of food or fresh water. The land is rich with hares and rabbits, some wallabies, almost a hundred delicious horses, and a steady flow of tender young riders visiting every week. With shady streams, thick scrub, and a small forest of native trees you could imagine that a panther would be hard to find if it didn’t want to be found. In theory, they could hide in the undergrowth or up in trees and would only need to come out at night to hunt. In practice however, as quiet and stealthy as they are, they are not invisible, nor are they obsessively shy. When resting in trees, their long drooping tails would tend to give them away, assuming the spindly eucalypt limbs don’t snap under their weight. Few trees here look strong enough to support a 60kg feline. These are not ideal conditions. READ MORE

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