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Newcastle Herald

Hunter big cat reports defy hard evidence

Date: 10/05/2014
Words: 199
Source: NCH
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: News
Page: 37
THEY are seen for a split second before disappearing back into the dark.

Every now and then a grainy photograph, patchy video footage or dodgy pawprint is produced to fuel talk that big cats roam the Hunter Valley.

For decades, "sightings" have persisted of large felines stalking national parks from the Hunter to Sydney's western fringes and beyond.

More than 500 accounts have been logged across NSW.

Some say they are jaguars that could have escaped from the circus or a zoo. Others suggest they were cougars brought here by American sailors as military mascots.

The Newcastle Herald published reports in 2012 of a panther around Morisset, Lake Munmorah and Wyee.

Lake Munmorah resident Jim Briggs found paw prints in his backyard at the time, and thought it was a panther due to the size.

Five years earlier a state government investigation into big cats failed to find evidence of the creatures.

Invasive species experts have blamed sightings on wild dogs, feral cats and wallabies.

Cryptozoology researcher Rex Gilroy believes big cats existed in Australia before Europeans came, and were even around in the ice age.

He thinks the creature could be related to the marsupial lion, believed to be extinct.

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