The Lithgow Panther

                                                         The Lithgow Panther 

A Lithgow Panther (above) still from a video filmed by Gail Pound in 2001. As regular as Winter
Lithgow Mercury, May 2006
 OLD Blackie is back - only this time there are two of ?em testing our imagination. Lithgow's famous panther has been missing for a while but that's not unusual; most of the sightings have been in the cooler months of the year.
So right on schedule we're getting our first report for 2006, and again it's from a very reliable source. Building trades personality Ed Healey was at home at Evelyn Street, in the lee of the Scenic Hill on Easter Saturday when something in his mountainside backyard caught his attention.
It was mid afternoon and when he went to the window he saw something large and black disappearing out of sight in the bracken. "If it was a dog it had the queerest head for a dog that I've ever seen," said Ed. But that wasn't all; on the embankment watching proceedings was another animal with a 'peculiar head' and a long tail only more dark grey than black.
It followed the black cat-like animal into the bracken. When Ed's son dropped in for a visit the next day he too spotted the second mystery animal as it disappeared into the scrub.
Ed said that in the many years he had resided at Evelyn Street he had never previously encountered any animal that he couldn't explain. But he said that about 18 months ago; his wife had been hanging out the washing when she spotted a large black animal bounding over the wide clumps of bracken fern on the mountainside.
It was the sort of feat that even the most athletic dog could not hope to emulate. All of the sightings of recent years have been generally in that eastern end of the Lithgow valley, in an arc extending from Mort Street across Chifley Road and the Scenic Hill to the Macaulay Street-Morts Estate area. Importantly the witnesses have all been responsible people, including police and business people.
Watch this space for further developments.

They seek him here, they seek him there - that damned elusive panther
By Stephen Gibbs
Sydney Morning Herald
May 23, 2003
After days of debate over paedophilia and terminal illness, the state's MPs yesterday turned their attention to dancing bears and a mysterious monster moggie.
Amid the controversy of lowering the age of consent for homosexual males and a trial of cannabis to relieve chronic pain, the Government announced it would fund a search for "the so-called elusive Lithgow panther". David Campbell, who covers for the Agriculture Minister, Ian Macdonald, in the lower house, told Parliament the Government had acted on a request by concerned Hawkesbury citizens to hunt down the beast. Earlier this month the citizens held a public meeting to discuss a March 20 attack attributed to the cat on 17-year-old Luke Walker at Kenthurst.
"In a terrifying struggle with the creature, Mr Walker received deep lacerations to his right arm," the Hills Shire Times reported on May 6. "Sightings of the monster cat have been reported in an area stretching from Galston to Pitt Town since the Kenthurst attack."
The Mayor of Hawkesbury, Rex Stubbs, told the Times: "I believe there is significant danger and something needs to be done."
Mr Campbell said that in the past 30 years there had been about 60 reports of a large, cat-like animal savaging livestock and humans in Sydney's west, north-west, the Blue Mountains and Lithgow. "It is a threat that NSW takes seriously," he told Parliament. Outside, he said an inquiry last year by the Agricultural Protection Unit, National Parks and Wildlife Service, MossVale Rural Lands Protection Board, local governmentand Taronga Zoo had been unable to find conclusive evidence of the panther.
NSW Agriculture would now re-open its inquiries "without incurring major cost". That cost is believed to be several thousand dollars.
Asked whether taxpayers should be paying for the panther hunt, the Leader of the Opposition, John Brogden, said: "I think Amanda Fazio should give herself up," referring to the raven-maned upper house Labor MP. Meanwhile, the Greens held a press conference to announce the presence in Sydney of Maneka Gandhi, "one of the last two surviving members of India's famed Gandhi family".
Ms Gandhi, an MP in India and "recently voted India's most popular person by MTV India viewers", is here to raise money to save India's dancing bears. T he bears are made to dance for tourists after having their teeth removed and a rope run through their nose.

Source: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 23/05/2003 P3 Three-year search but no panther
By Rachel Morris
The Daily Telegraph
January 24, 2002
THEY tried infrared technology, traps and good old fashioned looking - but it all proved to be in vain.
The three-year search for the elusive Lithgow panther alleged to be roaming bushland southwest of Sydney is over officially, despite experts being unable to disprove its existence.
This is in spite efforts by groups including NSW Agriculture, the Moss Vale Rural Lands Protection Board, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, local government and Taronga Zoo.
Motion-activated infrared cameras were installed and wild animal traps were set up without success.
The NPWS even sent in an experienced wild dog tracker, but this also failed to turn up evidence.
The tracker could neither confirm nor deny the existence of a rogue large black cat.
Taronga Zoo set up two small cameras but no video footage of any suspect animals was obtained and the equipment was removed.
But NSW Agriculture has left the door open for a new investigation should any information come up.
Bathurst MP Gerard Martin said the final decision to wind up the investigation was taken only after all avenues to confirm the existence of and locate the animal were exhausted.
"You name it, we tried it," Mr Martin said. "The cat has proved to be extremely elusive - it's as simple as that."
Mr Martin said to keep the investigation going would require an enormous amount of time and resources with no guarantee of success.
"NSW Agriculture has informed me however, that if further evidence of the animal does comes to light - that warrants a full investigation - it will be followed up thoroughly," Mr Martin said. "After all, it has not been proven that something is not out there. There is the film, from which exotic animal experts couldn't make any firm conclusions, as well as the findings of the tracker who could not rule out the existence of the Lithgow panther."
NSW Agriculture has for several years received reports of an unidentified large black cat in the Gross Vale area of western Sydney including video footage of a similar animal at Lithgow. Some people claim the animal resembled a black panther, a kind of leopard, puma or jaguar. The animal has been held responsible by some residents for stock losses.
Main players in the investigation * NSW Agriculture attempted to identify the animal by motion-activated infrared video camera that failed to record anything like the animal in question * STAFF from Taronga Zoo installed two similar cameras with no result * NSW Agriculture's exotic animals expert viewed home video footage of an unidentified cat couldn't make an identification * THE NPWS sent an experienced animal tracker into the area to investigate. He could neither confirm nor rule out its existence.

Trail of Lithgow Panther runs cold
Townsville Bulletin 
January 24, 2002 P9
THE hunt for the legendary Lithgow Panther has officially ended without success.
New South Wales Agriculture has, for the past three years, led an investigation into reports an unidentified large black cat had been seen roaming the Gross Vale area, west of Sydney.
A resident even videotaped a large animal near his property in Lithgow, piquing curiosity.
But attempts by NSW's agriculture department and several other groups, including the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Sydney's Taronga Zoo, have failed to locate the animal.
Panther hunter and Bathurst Country Labor MP Gerard Martin said yesterday the legend of the panther would remain a mystery unless new information came to light.
"You name it, we tried it," Mr Martin said.
"The cat has proved to be extremely elusive - it's as simple as that. Motion-activated infrared cameras were installed and wild animal traps were also put in place without success.
"The National Parks and Wildlife Service even sent in an experienced wild local dog tracker ... to no avail."

Panther inquiry dropped
Daily Telegraph
October 9, 2001 P13
THE Lithgow panther mystery is no closer to being solved with the NSW Department of Agriculture protection unit dropping its case. After a three-year inquiry into panther sightings across NSW, which included analysis of faeces samples, the department has stamped the evidence inconclusive. Lack of funding has caused the department to abandon the search. Graeme Eggleston, project manager for agricultural protection, said despite video evidence, opinion remained divided over panther claims.

Nothing new in black panther sightings
Lithgow Mercury, 'Your Say' section - No date 2001.
Sir, With something like the "panther" sightings stirring up interest there's always someone who comes out and says they've seen it before.
But I swear that about four or five years ago my partner and I were driving along Waratah Ridge on the Newnes Plateau when something large, black and cat-like leapt out of the scrub about 20 metres in front of us.
The creature turned it's head to look at us in mid flight, landed, spun 180 degrees and sped off back into the bush faster than anything I've seen. At the time we said it looked like a panther and I'd estimate it stood a gnat's hair under a metre tall at the shoulder, so if it was just a super feral cat, it was the mother of them all.
I also remember a reported sighting about 4 months later out the back of Baal Bone colliery (by one of the washery workers?), of a large "Puma" which drew the attention of news crews.
But as far as I know, the story never went to air? Then there's always the old stories of the "Tarana Tiger" which have been circulating for years.
Craig Flynn, Lithgow

Biologist's Theory On the Panther Footage
Daily Telegraph
By Simon Benson: Environmental Reporter 
Sydney Daily Telegraph 
May 11, 2001
Scientists will be called in to search for a "large feline predator of unknown origin" roaming the Blue Mountains following confirmation of the animal's existence from amateur video footage.
"It's certainly a bloody big cat." Department of Agriculture exotic animal expert Bill Atkinson said after viewing the video yesterday.
Mr Atkinson could not verify whether the animal was a large feral cat, black jaguar or black leopard. He could only be certain is was a large cat.
Gail and Wayne shot the 15-minute video of the animal after they spotted it from the back window of their home at Lithgow. The footage, revealed in The Daily Telegraph yesterday, appears to show a large cat more than 1.5m long close to a smaller cat.
Mr Atkinson said the evidence was inconclusive but it was 'definitely a large cat and it was definitely black.
Wildlife Biologists will now be called to the area to search for evidence, such as hair, which may identify the species. If the animal is about 1.5m in length it could weigh as much as 100kg.
Black Jaguars from South America and Leopards from Asia would pose a risk to humans and eat most other animals. They could easily adapt to the environment of the Blue Mountains.
However, the animal could also be a large feral cat.
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture said: "If it did turn out to be an exotic animal then we would certainly have to do something about it. We are taking it seriously and we will endeavour to get some scientific evidence."
Rumours of a "black panther" on Sydney's fringes have been circulating for 30 years. Large cats usually only live for between 12-16 years.
Lithgow locals Harry Mujezinovic and his wife Amra yesterday said they were now reluctant to venture outdoors. "We are scared because we don't know if it's true or not .
We won't be coming out at night until we know for sure." Mr Mujezinovic said.
Inspector Gary Megay of Lithgow police said he was not overly concerned about reports of the sighting. "We are not warning people to stay inside or anything like that. Obviously when there is a suspicion that there is a predator on the loose there is concern for young children.
"But where the footage was taken is the edge of a national park with plenty of wild animals for it to fee on," he said. Town Ready For Rush Of Big Cat Hunters
By Stephen Downie
Daily Telegraph 
May 12, 2001
The Blue Mountains district is preparing for an influx of novice big cat hunters today as the town of Lithgow debates the existence of the mysterious black "panther".
Scientists from the New South Wales Agriculture Department postponed plans to track the mountain beast yesterday, spending time assembling technical equipment for the assault on the national park.
But experts remained divided over whether the video footage of a large black cat is real, but the doubts have failed to curb panther fever. Footage of the "black panther" was revealed in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday.
The film showed a large cat more than 1.5m long near a smaller cat. Lithgow council said news of the big cat swept through the town yesterday.
"It certainly has sparked interest in the community, "Lithgow council general manager Iain Stewart said. "We've heard rumours but nothing's been substantiated." Mr Stewart said he expected to try to hunt down the animal over the weekend.
"A few of the locals will probably trample through the bushes to try and find it, if in fact it exists," he said.
He said that while the animal posed no risk to the town at this stage, council was prepared should things turn ugly and the animal wandered into residential areas. "If the community is threatened we will be taking action," Mr Stewart said.
The Lithgow Tourist centre got into the spirit of the hunt yesterday when it added a panther on it's website. "Some people thought it was a joke-it's being removed," Mr Stewart said.
Bill Dean, 77 whose house where the footage of the "black panther" was taken, said there has "got to be something out there". "It's too big to be a feral cat," he said. Mr Dean's curiosity was raised this week when his dog Chloe continued to bark.
Ordinary Chloe never wanted to go out the back door, he said. Mr Dean was concerned about the sort of people who might be attracted to the town. "I don't want anyone up here with guns, they'll shoot stray dogs," he said.
The main street was a buzz with panther talk yesterday. Lithgow newsagency worker Leanne Webb said alot of people didn't know the animal existed until recently. "Everyone's talking about the animal, but I don't think half the town knows where it was spotted," she said.
"I guess this might bring more tourists here," The Agriculture Department is viewing footage of the animal. A team of experts could arrive in town as early as today, an Agriculture Department spokesperson said. Traps Set For Big Cat
By Phillip Koch
Daily Telegraph 
May 13, 2001
Agriculture Department Officials will set traps this week to try to establish if the animal terrorising the Blue Mountains is a panther. Their investigation follows the revelation in the Sunday Telegraph two weeks ago.
Agriculture Department exotic animals Bill Atkinson said he would personally investigate the sighting later this week. "We'll probably set traps to secure hair samples, because there are a lot of feral cats in the region," Mr Atkinson said.
He is also waiting to view amateur video footage of an animal that appear to confirm the existence of the "large cat". Department officials plan to travel to the site where the video was taken to investigate.
"It's hard to tell the the size of thing from the video," explained Mr Atkinson, who said he would also show the video to big-cat experts at Taronga Park and Western Plain zoos.
He said more witnesses had come forward since the Sunday Telegraph reported that the State Government had secretly investigated dozens of sightings of the animal. "At least a dozen people have contacted me since that article," Mr Atkinson said.
"I even heard of a sighting in 1964 or 1965." He also said he no reason to doubt the witnesses, who maintained they had seen a big cat. "These people sound quite credible, and we have no reason to doubt them."
Mr Atkinson said the residents who had come forward since the revelation had reported seeing the mystery animal over a wide area of north-western Sydney. But he said finding the big cat would be impossible if it didn't want to be found.
"The animal has been seen only because it want's to be seen. We can't afford to hire 1000 trackers to find it." Seeing Is Believing - Farmer Reveals Panther Killings of Sheep and Dogs
By Lillian Saleh
Daily Telegraph 
May 14, 2001
Paw prints seen in the same area of the sighting with Obvious Differences!  
For decades they have been too afraid to tell their stories for fear of being laughed at.
But the video footage of the "Panther" at Lithgow last week revealed in the Daily Telegraph has prompted people throughout the region to recount their "run-ins" with the infamous animal said to be lurking in the Blue Mountains.  
A Gulgong farmer said he had "seen" the panther four times in the past 13 years. He claimed a number of sheep and farm dogs had been killed by the panther. "I have had sheep which were clawed from the top of thier heads to their noses," the farmer, who wished to remain anonymous said.
"But when I took the sheep into the Department of Agriculture in Mudgee they laughed at me and said a dog must have done it "But the sheep had two big tooth marks in the top of the head and there is no way a dog could have did that," the farmer said.
He said on one occasion he chased the animal in his ute, but could not keep up with it. "I was doing 60/km/h in the ute and it was running a lot faster than that.
Even the dogs couldn't keep up." He said the animal would only appear at night or early morning and then disappear for days. "One time I could see it perched on a rock and I tell you, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stick up."
A neighbouring farmer said her daughter saw the panther eight years ago. "My daughter was driving along Mudgee-Cassillis road one night when she swears this big black animal crossed in front of her. "She was terrified for days," the woman said.
"There had been talk going around here for 12-13 years, but I personally have never seen it. "But that is not to say it doesn't exist."
Officers from the Department of Agriculture will this week set hair traps to try and establish whether the animal filmed by a Lithgow couple last week is a panther. Lithgow police said locals reported their "theories" on where the panther may have come from.
"We have had a few comments saying a couple of panthers escaped decades ago, and have bred since then." the Spokesperson said.
Another theory put forward was the panther escaped after a Bullens Circus fire in 1979. Claw Marks A Clue To Panther
By Lillian Saleh
Daily Telegraph 
May 15, 2001
Oversized scratch marks on a tree and animal droppings will be analyzed as the hunt for the Lithgow black panther continues today.
The claw marks-scraped up 1.5m high on a acacia tree-will be examined today by the NSW Department of Agriculture.
The scientific checks may reveal the origins of the mysterious beast believed to be lurking in the Blue Mountains. Yesterday readers of the Daily Telegraph. It is believed US World War 2 soldiers for unleashing the animals in the wild.
It is believed US servicemen stationed on the east coast brought American mountain lions, jaguars and panthers to keep as mascots. After the war the servicemen are believed to have released the animals instead of shooting them. 
Bill Atkinson and Wayne Pound examine the tree.   Jim Barndon, from the Department of of Defense said there were no records of American's having kept the animals. "But I suppose anything is possible during war," Mr Barndon said.
Panther enthusiast Greg Foster yesterday said troops were responsible for unleashing the panthers. "They used to keep them at Richmond and Warragamba as pets," Mr Foster who studies panther sightings said. "Instead of killing them after the war, they released them into the wild."
Animal expert Bill Atkinson, from the Department of Agriculture, yesterday returned to the site where the "panther" was filmed in Lithgow last week to conduct tests. Mr Atkinson found an acacia tree with scratch marks and torn bark as well as sizeable animal droppings. 
A close up of the marks left on the tree. "The scratching and ripped bark were about 1.5m high on the tree," Mr Atkinson said. "It is hard to believe a possum could have done that."
Experts from Taronga and Dubbo's Western Plain zoos will this week view the footage of the panther. Scores of the Daily Telegraph readers yesterday recounted their run-ins with panthers.
Sydney resident Derek Borg said he followed a set of claw prints along a creek gully in Lismore 22 years ago. "I was walking along the creek bed when I saw them," Mr Borg said. "Each print was the size of saucers and I followed them for about 15 minutes along the creek," He said the prints then "disappeared".
A Yass farmer driving a grader in Tumut three years ago said the "panther" snarled at him after he followed it along the road. "I was riding the grader when I saw this big black cat up ahead. I chased it in the grader but then it just stopped and snarled at me before running into the berry bushes," he said.
Sightings in New South Wales
1} Cabbage Tree Road, Richmond, which backs on to the Blue Mountains National Park
2} In Bushland between Emu Heights and Mount Riverview
3} Lithgow
4} Grose Valley
5} Spring Road, Gulgong
6} Perched on a rock in the Rylston-Kandos area.
7} Near the Ulan coalmines
8} Crossing Cassilis Road at Mudgee  Is There a Pride Of Panthers on Prowl
By Lillian Saleh
Daily Telegraph 
May 16, 2001
For almost half a century Rex Gilroy has been investigating sightings of mysterious animals. His expeditions have taken him from the heart of the north Queensland wilderness to the NSW north coast.
Yesterday, Mr Gilroy, who with fellow panther expert Greg Foster has been commissioned by the Daily Telegraph to hunt for the black panther, set off for Lithgow.
Armed with his trusty ruler, note pad and pen Mr Gilroy quickly found "evidence" of the beast's existence. The veteran hunter claims to have found fresh paw prints just metres from where the panther was first seen and filmed last week.
And he believes numerous sightings indicate up to 15 panthers could inhabit the wilds of the Blue Mountains. "There is definitely a panther out there," Mr Gilroy said. "The prints are just too big, to belong to a feral cat.
Mr Gilroy believes the prints, which measure 10cm long by 12 cm wide, are only a day old. "By the look of them I'd say they are definitely fresh prints," he said.
Two years ago Mr Gilroy found a similar set of prints in bushland nearby which he had made into a plaster cast. "There were reports of sightings here two years ago so I came out with some friends and spent a couple of days looking for it. "But all we found were some prints," he said.
The wild cat enthusiast returned yesterday to trek even further into the Wollangambi National Park in a bid to find more clues. But while he is convinced of the panther's existence, Mr Gilroy is less confident of Authorities catching the beast.
"There is a lot of bushland out there and I really don't think it will just sit around and wait for someone to catch it," he said. "It would take a team of about 20 people going into bushland for several days or weeks."
While the panther continues to remain elusive, two English tourists yesterday thought they had stumbled across the animal. Clive Grant and Matt Owen were gathering firewood at the Inger Camping grounds at Wentworth Falls when they discovered large paw prints embedded in sand.
"It scared the hell out of us and we just bolted back to our tent," Mr Grant, 31, from Coventry, said. And Mr Owen 28, said "We thought it was the panther everyone has been talking about and it petrified us."
Both men were relieved-and slightly embarrassed-when told their 'panther' prints were in fact kangaroo paw prints.
Daily Telegraph readers continued to recount their run-ins with the panther, Dean Behncke said he stumbled across the panther twice while living in the Richmond area six years ago. Yowie Man To Hunt Panther
By Lillian Saleh
Daily Telegraph 
May 17, 2001
The Department of Agriculture is planning more tests as the hunt for the black panther of the Blue Mountains intensifies.
Wild cat expert Bill Atkinson, from the Department of Agriculture, said hair traps would be set in Lithgow next week.
Many readers of the Daily Telegraph are still recounting their run-ins with the beast. Irene Vaines said the panther leapt in front of her car as she was driving through Harden on her way from Sydney to Young eight months ago.
"At first I thought it was some sort of shadow but as I got closer to the bridge I saw it leap from one concrete pylon on to the bridge," Ms Vaines said. "I turned the car around and had a closer look at it but it just disappeared".
Former Lithgow resident Bede Potts said he came across the beast while rabbit hunting with his father in the 50's. "I ran towards it because I wanted to get a closer look. As I got closer it took off into the blackberry bushes but I saw the big black animal with a long curled up tail," he said.
Janet Herd recalled seeing a panther while bushwalking with two friends in the Blue Mountains in 1968.
"After some walking I noticed a sound coming from the bushes," Ms Herd said. "My friend picked up a stick and said to be quiet. "I turned to the side of where I was standing as I saw this big black-panther, I was terrified," Mrs Herd said.   On the Trail of a Panther
By Troy Lennon
Daily Telegraph 
May 23, 2001
'There is a Yeti in the back of everyone's mind; only the blessed are not haunted by it'-an old Sherpa saying.
Like the Yeti and Bigfoot before it, video footage of what looks like a large black cat wandering in the bush in the Blue Mountains has sparked an all out hunt for what is believed to be a panther.
For decades, the Blue Mountains residents have reported sightings of the creature. This latest video footage is evidence that the stories have a factual basis. While some believe it may be nothing more than a large black cat, or even a wild dog, not everyone is sceptical.
Rex Gilroy, is a long-time hunter of mysterious creatures, believes it could be the last of Australia's marsupial lions. The theory is not so far fetched. A mysterious black creature in the Kangaroo Valley on the South Coast in the 80's was found to have probably have been a rare black wallaby.
Others believe the animal would more likely be some kind of big cat such as a black leopard or puma that was accidentally released into the wild, or it's offspring. Based on the available evidence, Bill Atkinson, technical manager of exotic animals with the Department of Agriculture, says it is not possible to say exactly what it is.
"I don't think it's a labrador from the footage, it's a big cat," he says. A panther could, in theory , survive in Australia, he says, because there is enough wildlife and feral animals to feast on. "Panthers are very successful predators, very good hunters," Bill says.
They also inhabited the Atlas Mountains in the Middle East. However, cats have never been native to Australia, their evolution came long after Australia separated from the other continents. So even if the mysterious black creature is eventually solved that still eaves the question how it got here.
One persistent legend is that US servicemen stationed in Australia during World War 2 sneaked black panthers into the country as pets. According to legend, the soldiers could not take their mascots home so they freed them into the bush.
Even though there are no official records of soldiers bringing the animals to Australia the story makes it hard to dismiss. Given that a black panther lives only 10-16 years on average and 20 years at the most, it seems unlikely that it would be the same panther.
If it is the offspring of the original panthers there would need to have a viable breeding group to keep them alive for so long. The fact that there have been sightings of panthers from Gippsland Victoria to Brisbane suggests either one wide-ranging animal or several.
Bill Atkinson says Panthers and other large cats don't normally have such a large range. However, there is no way of telling if the wider range is due to adaptation to Australian conditions. Another possibility that has been suggested is that the cat escaped from a circus or animal park.
One possibility often cited is that they escaped from Bullen's Circus or Bullen's Lion Safari in the 1960s or '70s. Stafford Bullen renowned animal trainer and member of the famous Bullen's Circus family, says it is definitely not one of them.
He says strict regulations and regular checks by the Department of Agriculture on exotic animals make it unlikely that an animal could escape without detection. "If they find us a panther short we're in real trouble" says Bullen. The Urban Myth
Stories of a panther on the loose in the Blue Mountains are a source of fascination for many people. But they are not unique, with panthers spotted along the eastern seaboard of Australia.
Why are so many people so compelled by blurry images of animals on amateur video that may or may not exist?
Barry Williams, executive officer of the branch of the NSW branch of the Australian Skeptics, said people enjoyed these stories because of the modern complications of modern life.
"We probably cling to some of our more irrational beliefs because they are easier to get a grip on," Williams said. The mysterious is often worked into stories known as urban myths, which are eagerly shared despite their doubtful origins.
They are often called urban myths because they are most often invented by city or town dwellers to make up for the rich body of mythology missing in urban life. Often they are short snappy morality tales or stories with a weird twist. Sometimes they are just reality blown out of proportion. Wild Cat-Official Papers Reveal Hunt for Blue Mountains Black Panther
By Rod Smith
Sunday Telegraph 
April 29, 2001
The State Government {NSW} has secretly investigated dozens of sightings of an animal, thought to be a Panther, on the fringes of the Blue Mountains.
A large, dark-coloured cat-like creature has been blamed for the deaths of livestock and native animals over a 20 year period across an area stretching from Richmond to Emu Plains.
A wildlife expert, consulted by NSW Agriculture's vertebrate pests department says the creature is most likely a big feral cat.
"Difficult as it seems to accept, the most likely explanation of the evidence is the presence of a large feline predator-most likely a leopard, less likely a jaguar," Dr Johannes Bauer, of Charles Sturt University, reported.
Panthers typically live for 10 to 15 years in the wild, but life spans of 20 years are not uncommon. Two years ago, National Parks and Wildlife Service Officers set traps in an attempt to catch the creature, according to documents obtained by the Freedom of Information legislation.
The document shows National Parks officials deliberately tried to keep the investigation and sightings secret. Farmers and local residents have reported seeing the creature more than 40 times since the late '70's', most recently in May, 1999.
One witness described it as a "Doberman with a long tail". The animal has been blamed for bites on horses' legs, attacks on dogs and the killings of goats, sheep and lyrebirds.
The most recent sightings have been around Cabbage Tree Rd, near Richmond, which backs onto the Blue Mountains National Park.
One of the sightings was by Emu Heights resident Jeff Fox, who told National Parks investigators in January, 1999 he spotted at first what he thought was a black dog while jogging between Emu Heights and Mount Riverview. "The animal moved very slowly and was sleek in it's movements like a large cat," Mr Fox said.
Seven months earlier, a resident discovered a sheep carcass in a tree with claw marks scientists later reported could not have been made by a native animal.
Panthers which are actually black leopards, characteristically climb trees to eat their prey and can carry a carcass three times as heavy as their own body weight. One report involved a panther jumping on the roof of a house killing the family cat.
In his July, 1999 report, Dr Bauer concluded: "I consider the habitat the animal occurs in as optimal leopard habitat, with probably abundant prey in the form of macropods, possums, stray dogs etc.
"I would also think that within the densely forested area, dissected by many gorges and rock formations, the few sightings of this animal are not surprising.
The Freedom of Information documents were obtained for $30 by Michael Moss, a wildlife enthusiast from Balaclava, in Tasmania, who was researching the possible survival of the Tasmanian tiger.
After four days of trapping and investigations in the Cabbage Creek area in August and September of 1999, National Parks officials concluded the attacks on livestock, had been carried out by wild dogs and there was no evidence of a panther living in the Blue Mountains National Park.
As National Parks spokesman confirmed yesterday that the sightings and attacks had been taken seriously, and that one of the service's most experienced pest officer had been assigned the investigation.
But he told the Sunday Telegraph: " After three days in the field in 1999 and interviewing Grose Vale residents and examining other evidence said he could not confirm the attacks were those of a large cat."
Before trying to trap the creature, the Department of Agriculture had tried photographing it with infra-red cameras, but without success. Theories on how a panther may have reached the Blue Mountains are varied.
They include it being an escapee from the defunct Warragamba Dam African Lion Safari park, or a wayward pet smuggled into the country.
The Department of Agriculture also said the most likely answer to the mystery was wild dogs.
"We've tried trapping it and tracking it. We even had a shooter out there at one stage, but of course there are limitations on what you can do," department spokesman Bill Muldrew told the Sunday Telegraph.
There's no question that the people who have lost various pets, or in some cases livestock like goats and things like that, have done so-but it may well just be wild dogs. Wanted Alive: Big Black cat that was caught on Camera
By Eamonn Duff
May 13, 2001
Wildlife authorities will travel to the Blue Mountains this week in the hope of learning more about the mystery black cat caught on video camera.
But there will be no shoot to kill policy because of concerns about killing a creature that was long considered extinct. NSW Agriculture technical director of exotic animals Bill Atkinson said:
"This is not the time to be going out with guns blazing. This is a completely new thing for us and so the first priority must be to identify exactly what it is and where it originated from.
"Only when we have identified it can we sit down and decide the most appropriate course of action. You cannot dismiss the possibility this could in fact be something that was deemed extinct."
The massive black creature filmed in a Lithgow backyard last week is not the only creature still out there, believes Australasian Cryptozoology Research and Investigation Centre Director 'Rex Gilroy'.
"There remains an animal in that region which is a living remnant of the ice age marsupial cat fauna, possibly an offshoot of the marsupial lion," he said. The Thylacoleo carnifex was Australia's largest marsupial carnivore.
Panther speculation re-surfaced a fortnight ago when details of a massive Blue Mountains-based cat became public through a Freedom of Information document request by big cat researcher Michael Moss.
The New South Wales Government released a series of documents that acknowledged "something was out there". The secret files also revealed that in 1999 wildlife officials sent an expert to track down the creature after fears it could refocus its attention from livestock to humans-including tourists.
A letter from the Minister of Agriculture's Office read: " I would like your assistance in providing a suitably skilled person to enable this animal to be tracked, located and identified. " To not to do so could bring into question government duty of care if these alleged attacks happened to result in injury to a person."
Mr Atkinson yesterday played down that threat but suggested there be a change of thinking about just how many of these giant cats might be roaming Sydney's fringes. "Yes, there may be more than just the one," he said.
"Because this creature has finally been caught on film, we must now take seriously all the eyewitnesses accounts that have been flooding in over the past 40 years. These type of cats don't generally live for 40 years-so you must draw your own conclusions.
One Grose Valley resident, who has spent the past five years compiling a thorough database on the black cat, said she was ecstatic that film footage from Lithgow had finally proved to the Government that "local residents are not bonkers".
"National Parks can bloody well return and finish the half-hearted job they started a few years back," she said. "This may be a great conversational piece in the city end of the Sydney, but us locals are the ones who have had to put up with livestock carnage, the marauding and the day to day threat."
A Lithgow resident filmed a "black panther" last Wednesday. Mr Atkinson admitted that finding the creature would be difficult. He said "Planes go down in that region and are not recovered for days. People get lost and want to be found but they are not traced for days, either.
"So imagine trying to track one of these creatures when it simply does not want to be tracked. "That's the task we face."

The Year of the Cat
Lithgow Mercury
May 3, 2001
The Sydney media at the weekend was again on safari, reviving tales of a 'panther' marauding through the Blue Mountains foothills and carting off stock and domestic animals. Could this be the 'Son of Tarana Tiger'?
Older readers of the Mercury will recall the exploits of 'The Tiger' some years back with the sighting of what witnesses describe as a 'black panther' killing sheep on properties between Tarana and Yetholme.
The Tarana Tiger became something of a local legend for months but the sightings ended after a landholder shot an unusually large black dog. Over the years there were other sightings of strange animals around the district.
But perhaps the most unusual was the one that took a little explaining. Years ago the column was at the old Lithgow police station in bridge street when an obviously startled traveller burst in. He blurted out to the desk sergeant that a short time earlier he and his family had pulled off the highway at South Bowenfels for a cup of tea and a nature break when they heard a frightening howling noise and saw a 'large black cat' staring at them before bounding away up the mountain. When he took police back to the location he pointed out a side track leading into the bush below Hassan's Walls, opposite the Forty Bends. The police found a pile of fresh animal bones, various tracks, and an unusual smell. And that was it.
There were no more sightings ever reported at that location so maybe that 'cat' was just as startled as the travellers who encountered it.
On the bright side we have no reports of local bush walkers being physically molested by anything more aggressive than the occasional Funnel Web spider or Tiger Snake. There was a tale of the Byng Bunyip, but that's another story! Is it a Panther or Just a Wild Dog? 
The Sun-Herald 
By Eamon Duff 
April 29, 2001  
A mystery black predator thought to be a panther may be roaming through properties on Sydney's outskirts, according to confidential State Government documents.
Memos obtained under the Freedom Of Information Act showed wildlife authorities were sufficiently concerned about the potential danger to Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury area residents that they commissioned an expert to track down what residents are adamant is a big black cat.
Department of Agriculture head Kevin Sheridan confessed in a 1999 letter to National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) director-general Brian Gilligan: "The reports are becoming too frequent for us to ignore the possibility. so could bring into question Government's duty of care if these alleged attacks happened to result in injury to a person."
For years, residents have seen livestock being picked off, while some bushwalkers have come face to face with the beast. The issue has become public following the FOI document request by independent big cat researcher. In January 1999, a local jogger was enjoying an early evening run when he saw what he initially thought was a big black dog. "The animal was covered in smooth short black shining fur, it was very slow and sleek in its movements like a large cat," the jogger reported. "I still believe, as I did at the time, that I saw a panther."
Three months later, NSW Agriculture's technical manager for exotic animals, Bill Atkinson, wrote to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, warning: "Some eight months ago I started receiving reports from reputable people about a large [panther size] black cat being seen in the Grose Vale area.
"The animal has apparently moved into the Blue Mountains National Park each summer and returned to the Grose Vale area every winter for the last five or six years and killed a number of sheep and goats," he said.
Wildlife ecologist Johannes J Bauer was also commissioned to provide his opinion.
"Difficult as it seems to accept, the most likely explanation of the evidence listed above is the presence of a large feline predator," he said. "In this area, [it is] most likely a leopard, less likely a jaguar."
This triggered the Department of Agriculture to send an officer to catch the cat. But the three-day hunt proved fruitless, as did later attempts. Angry residents yesterday demanded wildlife officials return and catch the predator.
"We've carried this dark secret for several years through fears for our credibility [and]...we were terrified our district would suddenly become a playground for every would-be hunter and his gun," said a Kurrajong resident who asked not to be identified. "We demand they come back and trap this creature once and for all."