Panther or pussycat?
For the last 40 plus years, there have been reports and rumoured sightings of a large cat lurking in the bush around the Lithgow area. Some may have heard of these sightings and this mystery big cat has become affectionately known as the ‘Lithgow Panther’.
But is it real? There are very few photos; scant evidence; and no actual proof such as a dead body.
However, if you speak to those who have witnessed a big cat one things becomes clear.
The people who have seen this cat-like animal aren’t making things up. Normal, everyday people going about their business and then they see something they have never seen before. Recent sightings include that of two Lithgow police officers.
I’m sure many more sightings go unreported and those who do mention it know they will face criticism from sceptics.
For the sake of this blog, lets not speculate how a ‘big cat’ arrived in the Lithgow area, rather lets have a look at something that happened to me the other day.
Now, before you jump to the end of the story for a punch line or worse, jump to conclusions of any sort, here’s a few things upfront.
1) No, I haven’t seen a big cat…. but I’d like to see one sometime.
2) Yes, I do believe a big cat exists in the bush around the western edge of the Blue Mountains.
3) And, In my daily travels I have seen what I consider evidence of a big cat. Recently, I came across a really badly shredded Kangaroo carcass, not chewed apart but torn apart.
Now, back to my story……..
I run daily 4WD Adventures into the bush in the Blue Mountains, Lithgow, around the western side of the Great Dividing range and Bathurst NSW* so I’m out and about more than your average weekend 4WDer. I grew up in the area and my office is the bush.
Just a few days ago, I had a tour booked and picked up a lovely family from some cabins out in the bush. The previous night, they had driven from their cabin to a restaurant for dinner and returned to their cabin around 10pm……….
So, the next morning, our 4WD tour started normally when I met my Guests. As I got introduced, I found one of my Guests was Columbus Ohio, working in Sydney, is partner is an Australian originating from North Queensland and living in Sydney and Mum, a lovely German woman from Berlin, now residing in Ohio.
As we drove along, all sorts of Australian related questions were asked. What type of trees are we looking at? does it snow out here? where will be going? etc, etc. All very normal questions. Then came the biggie……. my Guest from Ohio asked “What is the big cat you’ve got out here?”
My heart jumped but I remained calm. I said “Not sure, what did you see?” keeping my eye contact to a minimum. He continued calmly, ” When we left the restaurant, we came around a bend and saw this big cat. I think it was a Lynx or maybe a Bobcat but I didn’t think you get them out here do you?”
I said, “Sure it wasn’t just a feral cat?”
“No, it was too big” replied all three passengers . Then they all gave a full blow by blow recount of what they all saw.
This is what I learned……
- It was big. Much bigger than a cat but cat-like in its walk and shape, distinctly different from the look and walk of a dog.
- It had a long tail
- It appeared to be dark or black in the headlights of the car
- It had brown or golden…ish coloured spots
- The head was small and refined, like a cat
There was much discussion on how big was “big”. Small, medium and big mean different things to different people. So I asked what did it do?
It crossed the road in the car headlights entering from the bush passing left to right and had to physically duck under the ARMCO railing on the side of the road. The one comment ‘it had to duck under the railing’ to me, gave a reasonably accurate height estimation. The railings at the spot of the sighting where they showed me was around 500mm at the lowest edge. So, this ‘big cat’ must have be around 550-600mm tall at it’s shoulder blades.
This clearly was no domestic cat. This was a big cat. Lynx or bobcat? unlikely. Panther? unlikely but who knows. but what about the spots? I was enthralled to hear the story unfold.
Asking more questions, the conversation flowed with all three Guests generally agreeing on the size of the big cat and very much agreeing on it’s appearance, walk and what it did.
Now, if I had a bunch of Australians on board, who had never seen a Bobcat or Lynx in real life, I’d be a bit more speculative. However all three Guests have lived and spent much time in the US and saw what their first instinct told them it was a Lynx, about the size of a Bobcat.
After spending a day with these Guests, I believe they saw a big cat of some sort. These are very normal city folk out for a day of adventure in the bush. The cabin they stayed in was out of mobile reception range and I was the first person they came into contact with only 10 hours after the sighting. Amazing stuff.
So, after listening to the encounter of these Guests, I casually asked had the heard the story of the Lithgow Panther? No, came the reply , nor did they realise we were near Lithgow. Once told of the many sightings, all were adamant, what they saw was not a Panther.
Sceptics reading this blog will no doubt ask “So where are the photos?” I’d answer that by asking in reply, “have you ever tried to photograph a kangaroo when it darts out in front of you on the road?”
Personally, I would prefer to not refer to this big cat as the Lithgow Panther any more. It is quite possibly a misleading statement. Whether it is some sort of a feral cat upsized over generations to take on big prey remains to be documented.
What I do know is that I’m going to go find one of these big cats and record it. Anyone want to join me?
Take care everyone and remember…. when out in the bush, take your rubbish away with you.
* You can enjoy a day of adventure with Detour Adventures. visit www.detouradventures.com.au. OR www.facebook.com/4WDetour OR www.instagram.com/4WDetour. OR you can call me on 1300 4 DETOUR (that’s 1300 433 868). email firstname.lastname@example.org Follow me on twitter of you like @4WDetour