Big cat stalks Londonderryfirstname.lastname@example.org|08/16/06 at 21:00:58|selkie|xx|0|18.104.22.168|by Rebecca Lang
Wednesday, 16 August 2006
A MONSTROUS moggie has been spotted by a Department of Primary Industries employee on the edge of the University of Western Sydney's Hawkesbury campus at Southee Rd, Richmond.
Leigh James, a horticulturist with the department, was out surveying with irrigation officer Bill Yiasoumi last Friday morning when he spotted the large cat, which was dark chocolate brown in colour with a thick tail.
Mr James had wandered away from Mr Yiasoumi into another paddock when he stumbled upon the cat 'mid-hunt' as it stalked unseen prey in long grass near
a fence line.
Using the Department of Primary Industries' own size chart, Mr James was able to show The Gazette that the animal was in the range of a leopard – standing 450mm to the shoulder, 850mm long in the body, and sporting a 600m long tail that was about 55mm in diameter, which would weigh about 30-35kg.
"I was walking along the
fence line when I saw this dark-furred animal and thought ‘what the hell is that?'" he said.
"I thought it might have been a wallaby and was trying to make out its hind legs when it suddenly sprung into the air and pounced down into the grass.
"It wasn't your run-of-the-mill house cat...it would have to have been at least four times larger.
"I started to walk down there towards it – it didn't even see me, it was focused on what it was after – and then thought ‘this thing's pretty wild, I don't know if it will go me or not'.
"I went back and about 10
minutes later we went down to look for trampled grass or a
dead animal but couldn't see anything. I am not saying I saw a panther, but I saw an extremely large cat."
Mr James's sighting is the third by a department employee that The Gazette knows of; the cat has also been seen by National Parks and Wildlife staff who are reluctant to go on the record.
But the sighting isn't the first for Londonderry, where a spate of big cat sightings has been recorded in the past 10 years – among them two sightings by resident and zoologist Dean von Elsner, who is
convinced there are exotic cats in the Hawkesbury.
In 1999 he told The Gazette "it was definitely a black leopard" he had seen on both occasions.
Grose Vale resident Chris Coffey, who is involved with
compiling a database of local sightings, said members of the public didn't have much chance of being taken seriously if sightings by department employees were not properly investigated.
"How many people have to see it before this thing is taken seriously? Aren't department rangers credible enough?" she said.
Big cat researchers Tony Healy and Mike Williams visited the area this week looking for tracks.