May 4th 2012
Letter: Do we have Alien Big Cats in Australia?
Magnetic Island may be home to a very big black cat. There have been two credible sightings with the most recent from Nelly Bay resident, Anne Sustrunck. Now, Townsville conservationist, Margaret Moorehouse has a tale to tell and raises some very interesting questions on what might be happening with Australia's feral cat population.
Do we have ABCs in Australia? (Alien big Cats.)
There is a much-recycled story about black mountain lions which I first heard in the 1960s in Victoria. Strange maulings had happened to horses and young cattle near the Dandenong Ranges (I was living there at Avonsleigh) - a leg and a head ripped off are incidences I recall - not easily attributable to stray dogs.
Then one morning I found one of my adult goats (penned inside 6' fences) down and in shock, after an episode of screaming heard by a neighbour and which had attracted the notice of my cattle dog, interrupting whatever was going on.
A Vet attended, the goat died, I skinned it and found many sets of long scratches visible inside the skin, which I showed to the vet. Vet said "definitely not dog, only a cat can make those marks" - but they were too large for a moggie.
There were neighbourhood reports of a big cat. One night in my car headlights I got a good view of a tall, slim, pointed-eared black creature looking remarkably svelt and cat-like until I spotted a terrier and a 1/2 dozen large black pups running with her. The police later dealt with this hungry bitch and her pack.
Further reports followed in Victoria, for years, in far distant places such as the Grampian ranges. The story had popular currency because it was rumoured that American troops brought their black mountain lion mascots to Australia and released them here when they were not allowed to return them to the USA.
Irrefutable evidence now exists of black feral cats, not pumas, in Australia. See this website Australia's new feral mega-cats - for photos and references to actual identified and measured HUGE black ferals in Victoria - all Felix catus, not ABCs.(CLICK HERE
But beware: the Australian Government has allowed so called Bengal cats into Australia as domestic cats. The Bengal is a hybrid of an Asian wild cat Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis and domestic cat. Very beautiful, very affectionate, very agile, and very ferocious hunters including of dogs and other cats. NZ has banned them.
Despite all the risks of these genes escaping into the feral cat population, Australia has also allowed the entry of Savannah cats, hybrid of the African Serval and domestic cat. The Savannah is even bigger than the Bengal hybrid strain. Containment of Savannahs is supposedly strictly controlled, but they have been imported as a business venture and are on sale to the public. In any case, import of Bengals depends only on a short pedigree, and a recent ancestor of "breed unknown" has been acceptable - and this could be code for Savannah. Their extraordinary beauty and $$ value creates powerful motivation to get them here.
Some years ago a NZ couple brought an entire male Bengal to Bowen to live when NZ banned Bengals. After about 6 weeks on the loose it was shot but not killed, and left in the owners' driveway. The newspaper reports (Townsville Bulletin) were greatly sympathetic to the cat and its owners - but the story showed that the owners had not a thought in their heads about their new neighbourhood, its pets and livestock, or Australia's unique wildlife.
The imported hybrid cat is a sleeper breeding big trouble for the future. Any Bengals on Maggie?
To read Magnetic Times' other stories of big cat sighting on Magnetic Island click on these stories below:
What did Sabrina see?
Magnetic Island's big cat mystery continues
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