The Big Cat Footprint (Click Here for Examples of Different Types of Foot Prints)
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Written by Paul Clacher Copyright 2006
My First Big Cat Incident
This is in fact what really got me started and interested in Big Cats in Australia. Prior to 1991, if you had asked me about Big Cats in Australia, like most people I would probably have laughed at you. It was on a fateful day in November 1991, and from memory it was my birthday, I had taken the day off work and I was fossicking for gold with my metal detector in Jones’ Creek near Tarnagulla, which is just North of Dunolly in Victoria. I had walked up Jones’ Creek for about a kilometre swinging my detector when I swung my detector over a footprint impression in soft brown clay type mud in the creek. The footprint was about 6 to 7 inches in diameter and was that of a large cat. My instant reaction was to swear, go into a cold sweat and to reach down to unclip the holder on the machete hanging from my belt. Almost at once I realised the folly of this thought and said to myself there are no lions in Australia. I knelt down and examined the footprint. It was an exact imprint of a very big cat. What I found rather strange though, was that the claws were very clearly visible in the clay. This really put me off, as I knew that cat’s claws were retractable. So I then started to try to convince myself that what I was looking at was the print of a wombat. I really knew to myself though that it was the print of a very big cat.
Several months later my family and I were staying at the Tarnagulla Caravan Park and we were at the hotel one afternoon when I mentioned the footprint to the publican. Well I really thought that I had really put my foot in it when the entire bar went totally quiet and all the patrons just looked at me. Oh shit I thought, as the publican walked over to a spot behind the bar and pulled out a white object. He then walked over to me and placed a plaster cast of a cat print on the bar and said to me, “what like that”. My reply to him was “no the footprint I saw was much bigger”. Everyone in the bar then said “oh you must have seen the big black one then”. I was then shown a copy of the Local tourist News. In it was a phone number and the request, “have you seen big cats other than feral cats”? if so please phone the listed number. I phoned this number and found out much more about these cats. In fact I found out that many people have seen them.
20060721 - The Blenheim State School
In my travels in and around the Laidley area, I came across the Blenheim State School and saw that the main emblem / mascot for the school is a "Black Panther". On inquiring with the locals, no one could give an explanation of why they have a Panther as the mascot of the school since its opening in 1879. Could it be because recent sightings of Panthers at, Mulgowie, Ma Ma Creek and Pilton suggests very strongly that there are Big Cats living in the area now and could have done so since 1879. There are numerous caves in the area, which would afford the cats a perfect habitat. There is also an abundance of bush and wildlife in that area. Perhaps searching through archived newspapers around 1879 for that area may shed some light on the subject.
The following is a report from a witness, which appears on the Witnesses page on this site. "In another case at my mother's hobby farm in Pilton Qld. She told me her cows and dogs were going "mad" one night, so she went out with the spotlight to see what was going on. She said she really didn't see the thing clearly, but swears it was the back end of a "Big Cat" she saw going down into the gully. She said she had no intention of finding out exactly what it was. Mum describes it as a dark off white colour about as big as a yearling heifer. Mum runs Poll Herefords so we don't think it was a cow." Please note:- that Pilton is not very far from, Blenheim, Mulgowie, Ma Ma Creek and Clifton.
20060720 - The Black Panther of Emmaville and Torrington
Many more Torrington and Emmaville residents have reported sightings of a black panther-like creature over the years, than have reported the "Yowie".
As you can see below, the Panther is such an Icon in the area, that the township of Emmaville has adopted the Panther as a part of the Townships emblem.
"One sighting was by a local resident and his wife while driving into town. It was on the road, right in front of them. They described it as being "brown/ black, almost 3 or 4 feet high with a huge head and thick legs and with tapered off hindquarters, like something a child would draw, slightly out of proportion"
Some residents in the area north of Torrington, when camping in an old shearing shed during 1969, heard terrible growling and "pig squealing" noises at night. Large cat footprints in the sand and the remains of kangaroos freshly killed and eaten, with the bones having been crushed with remarkable force, were found the next morning.
During the same year another couple in this area heard terrible growling noises outside their house. Their little dog was normally very keen on going hunting, but this night, "she had the wind up and all her bristles up, but she wouldn't go outside".
Sheep have been reported being killed and one report was of a horse that had died after having its neck ripped open. Another incident was of a domestic dog that had been killed while chained in its kennel.
Once again, sound theories have been put forward. Perhaps a large feral cat, a wild pig, or maybe as many people do believe, a black panther. (Old Torrington A History of Torrington and District 1881 - 1981, Examiner Printing Service, Glen Innes, 1981, p 85)
20051210 - Extracted from the book "Flett Josie, A History of BUNYIPS, Australia's Great Mystery Water Beasts, Tyalgum, Australia, Free Spirit Press, 1999"
20050918 - The Black Panther Cafe Bar etc, Halls Gap
A couple of interesting photographs, which I took when I was at Halls Gap in Victoria in September 2005.
Whilst I was staying at the Halls Gap Caravan Park I started speaking with another traveler there who told me that as a child and teenager he lived in the small town of Dunkeld which is located at the Southern end of the Grampians and that he lived there until he commenced teacher training. He advised me that it was general public common knowledge that during the second World War American Servicemen from the Tank Division were stationed in the region and that the Australian Quarantine Services told the US Servicemen that they had to dispose of their Corp Mascots which were "Pumas" and "Panthers". The generally believed story goes that instead of killing their Mascots the Servicemen released their 5 "Pumas" and "Panthers" into the bush at the Grampians. My newly acquired friend advised me that this was not technically correct.
He said that the true story is that the US Servicemen were stationed in the area near Macarthur and, yes they did have 5 Big Cats of "Panthers" and Pumas" and they were requested by the Australian Quarantine Services to kill the animals, but they did not kill them and the true location of where they released the Big Cats was not in fact in the Grampians at all, but that they were released at Byaduk near some caves.
So, I visited the Byaduk caves and found an extensive system of Lava tube caves. Please see the below Lava Cave which is located in the area near Byaduk. There are numerous Lava tubes in this area and it is very easy to see that these Big Cats could live quite comfortably in these caves in this area.
20050916 - The Tantanoola Tiger
The Tantanoola Hotel South Australia - In an information card provided by the Tantanoola "Tiger Hotel" it is stated that "In the early 1880's a small circus was making its way between Millicent and Mt. Gambier. Making camp in a scrub clearing, the group settled for the night.
On waking in the morning, they discovered that a Bengal Tiger had escaped and disappeared into the dense surrounding scrubland. (The Tiger was not found and was reported to the local police)
It was in the early 1890's sheep began disappearing from the Tantanoola area, blame being laid at the feet of the tiger.
In 1893, reports surfaced of an unusual animal in the Tantanoola area. Some described as the missing tiger, some claimed it was just a large dog, while one person claimed to have seen this animal carrying a fully grown sheep in its mouth."
In an article "That Tantanoola Tiger" written by Rex SHANE in the People Magazine on 08/09/1965 on page 17, it was stated that "Among the mysterious animals said to have preyed on sheep and sometimes even cattle, in various parts of Australia, none has harassed flocks so consistently so savagely as the tiger. Australian killer-tigers have passed into story but the oldest and fiercest of them refuses to die. He is the celebrated tiger of Tantanoola."
Tantanoola can be found just over the South Australian border about 50 kilometres Northwest of Mt. Gambier, which is in itself just slightly Northwest of Nelson in Western Victoria. This case is an excellent example of rumors, Chinese whispers, fear and truth causing the creation of a legendary Tiger in the 1890's in the Tantanoola area. The boundaries of truth and fiction had become so blurred that no one really knew what the truth really was. There was no doubt that an animal was killing sheep in the area, but was it a Tiger and if it was was it a Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine)? The area is volcanic and there are many swamps also in the area and there are also many "bottomless" blue lakes in the area, not to mention that Tantanoola was quite isolated. This seemed to create an air of the unknown and there was talk of mystical creatures.
The "Tantanoola Tiger" or at the time when shot on 21/08/1885 was believed to be an Assyrian or Northern russian Wolf. You can see the entry bullet hole just below the rib cage in the left side. (Click on image for enlargement) Its body was stuffed and initially placed on the roof of the Tantanoola Hotel, which was later to be known at the Tiger Hotel. The wolf has now been placed into a hermetically sealed glass cabinet in the hotel lounge area. It was after the wolf had been shot in 1885 that people then believed that the killing of the sheep in the area would end. How wrong they could be.
It was just 5 or so years after in 1889 when the original "Tantanoola Tiger" was shot and stuffed, that the legend was once again resurrected. "One night during a storm he (a local station owner) was awakened by a violent rattling at the door. He dismissed the matter thinking that the noise had been caused by a big station collie that often shared his hut. Then he suddenly remembered that he had chained the dog up before going to the hut. A little later he smelled a revolting stench. When he went to investigate a huge animal rushed out of the hut. After that he always slept with a rifle at hand.
That was in 1899. The authority of such a man as the tutor gave the "Tantanoola Tiger" a fresh lease of life and it remained practically unchallenged as a tiger for another 11 years." (Rex SHANE, 1965)
So, what was the creature, that the station owner saw. And, is it, or are they still there?
An interesting spin to this tale was when a enterprising sheep thief, come rustler, come butcher decided this was a great opportunity to steal and butcher many of the local farmer's sheep and it could be blamed upon the "Tantanoola Tiger". However he was caught some time shortly afterwards when about 4,000 sheep had gone missing over a 20 year period and the bush slaughter pens and butchering yards were located in a local swamp. Not even the best tiger could eat 4,000 sheep in 20 years. The thief was eventually caught and in 1911 he was jailed with hard labour for 6 years.
20050831 - Dead Roo Up Tree 31/08/2005
Please note the below photos. I took them of a very dead kangaroo up a tree. The back quarter is missing and within 10 feet of the tree I found some really strange foot prints from a track line. These photographs can also be seen below. The time was around 11:25 am on 31/08/05 about 10 kilometres West of Jimboomba, which is about 50 kilometres South West of Brisbane. The kangaroo is a very large red or grey male roo. (It was hard to tell because of the state of the body.)
I have no real way of knowing though if someone has shot the roo and dismembered it and slung it up in the tree, or if it got up there by some other means, but it was noted that the fur was missing from its back and the flesh around its mouth and eyes are missing. Also through the stench I tried to find any obvious bullet holes and I could find none. That is not to say there was one, where I could not see, but from where I could see, there were no clear entry or exit wounds. There did appear to be some kind of injury to its neck.
However, there have been reported sightings of a big cat in that area, so it is possible a cat killed it and took it up there. I have seen traces of sheep up trees before (around the Inverell area) and there were no claw marks on the tree there either.
As far as the foot prints go. I have absolutely no idea at all what they might be, as I have never seen anything like them before. I would discount them as hoof prints as each print had three rounded pads and they were in a track line in soft clay and sand. In all there were about 6 clearly defined prints.
20050612 - Monto 2004 my Bunyip-in-nature
I was exploring around the Northeastern area of Monto in June 2005 and I came across this remarkably shaped piece of log.
I thought it looked so much like some sort of prehistoric creature / bunyip I just had to take a photograph of it. Just south of Monto at Mulgildie is a lagoon in the Three Moons River called the Bunyip Hole, which is a really creepy place at night.
20040310 - Easter 2004
It was during Easter 2004 on 10/04/04 that my family and I once again spent some time in and around the Stanthorpe region. During that time we ventured into some of the more remote areas and it was in one of those places that I came across 2 mystery footprints, one of which I am including on this page for general viewing. As it can be seen the print is 9.5 centimetres across.
20030410 - Easter 2003
It was in the Easter of 2003 that my family and I were spending some time in the Stanthorpe region and I was doing a bit of exploring for an old Tin mine out in the bush. I walked off the old overgrown track through some heath on a pretty well used animal track and I entered a rather large open area of flat granite rock. On my return up the animal track I came across a good foot print in some semi dried mud. The print was probably about a week old. The base of the print had started to crack slightly. But as I now alway explore in the bush with a well kitted out back, which always includes 2 3/4 filled cream bottles of plaster of Paris powder I quickly made up some plaster paste and took an impression of the print. That print now appears below. As can be seen the print is about 10.5 centimetres wide.
20010101 - Suspect Big Cat Killing Field - Inverell Area
It was sometime in 2001 that I happened upon an area not far out of Inverell, of what I suspect to be a Big Cat Killing Field. (Inverell is located in Northeastern New South Wales) I have included the photographs that I took of the skeletal remains of the eaten sheep. I say eaten, as there were numerous teeth marks on the stumps of many of the gnawed bones. The bodies were not torn apart as a pack of dingoes would do, but the carcasses remained in position where they had been killed and eaten, much the same way that lions kill and eat their prey. Also all of the skeletal remains were laid out upon their backs. In many of the Big Cat kills the sheep hide has been laid out and licked clean. Photograph 4 is of just such an example. I found it interesting that I also discovered pieces of wool in the fork of a nearby tree. This can be seen in Photograph 7. Big Cats often sit in the forks of large trees after they have eaten.
19990702 - Torrington 1999
On 2 July 1999 at 12:30 pm my wife saw a Puma from the path as we were nearing the Car Park at Torrington at the Mystery Face Car Park. We were just coming back from a walk to the Mystery face. It was just before the tree line on the Northern side of a swampy marsh on the left of the track about 100 metres from the car park. She stated that the animal travelled East to West and the sighting lasted about 2 to 3 seconds. She described the colour of the animal as a sandy light brown. It was also about 60 centimetres high to the top of its back. We walked around to where she had seen the animal. The area was a swamp / pond type area with a car track on the Northern side of the water. I walked into the area with a big stick just in case. I was looking for foot prints, but found none.
19990701 - The Carcass
About 1 July 1999 we were driving back from Bingara
on the Copeton Road when I saw a carcass on the side of the road. I
pulled the car over and observed the carcass of a sheep (see below)
which had been completely eaten out. There were large and numerous teeth
marks on the rib cage. The kill was fresh. There was no odour to the
carcass and absolutely no flesh left on the skeleton. There were no
ants in sight either.
19950820 - Sighting Texas - Stanthorpe Road
During 1995 a friend of mine was driving with her husband along the dirt Texas Stanthorpe Road when she called out to her husband "Did you see that". He said no. She said to him that he had better back up and have a better look. So they did. They reversed back up for about 100 metres until they got to a very large dead tree which was lying on its side. Lying a straddle on the tree was a very large black cat. I was told that it just lay there looking at them both and made no attempt to run. I understand it was basking in the sun. The cat, I was told, was not a wild or domestic cat, it was of Panther proportions. At first, both had trouble accepting what they were looking at. But after a while they agreed that they were looking at a very large cat which was not a wild pussy cat. The location of the cat was about a third the way along the road from the Texas side going towards Stanthorpe. The tree was about a metre in diameter and it was just before where the road heads up into the hills. The cat lay about ten metres from the car.
19931001 - The Stuart Mill Incident
Several years after my first sighting at Tarnagulla probably around 1993 or 1994, I was camped at the head of a Gully near Stuart Mill in Victoria. It was probably on a Saturday evening about 7 pm and it was on dusk. Initially I heard a huge racket of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos screeching in the gully just below the dam. The dam was about 100 metres from my camp.
I was standing at the campfire and from memory was enjoying a coffee at the time. The Cockatoos were on the lower side of the dam. The racket was enormous. This went on for about 30 seconds maybe 1 minute. Then I heard it. It was the sound of a very large animal, (at the time I thought it sounded like a large cat) snarling and growling. It sounded big, like the volume that a mountain lion sized cat would make. Not quite as loud as a lion but pretty close. The snarling / growling was moving close to my camp, so I decided to head to the car and secure my self in the car for preservation. At that time I also decided I would call it an early night. As it was getting dark, and the fact that the animal was on the other lower side of the dam I was unable to see it from the campfire area. I can tell you also that I was not about to go and have a look either. I did not want to become supper for some animal that is not supposed to exist in the Australian bush. The Gully is about 10 km west of Stuart Mill Northwest off the Rostron Road. In hind sight now (isn't hind sight a wonderful thing) I really should have made some sort of effort to try and see the animal. But I guess there was no real safe way of doing that. Perhaps if I had done that, I would not be writing this story now, who knows.
19940101 - Charleville 1994
The above images were given to me by Mr. Steve Rushton. They have been lifted from a 2 second amateur video which was taken in 1994 in the Charleville region. It appears to be of a creature which is neither cat nor dog. You can see in the second photograph that the creature has a stiff marsupial type tail. There is absolutely no curve to the tail and no lateral flexibility, which would tend to indicate that it may well be an Australian Marsupial. If this is the case then this is probably an animal which as yet has not been discovered and subsequently classified. The head is solid with a solid and rectangular jaw. From this it appears that the creature is probably carnivorous in nature. In the video the creature moves in a lopeing manner. I would describe the colour of the creature as light sandy brown to a tan colour (Or Lion colour). Its body is very muscular.
Just a point of note:- The below model, is of a Thylacoleo and was photographed by me at the Queensland Museum.
I also took these photographs below of the Thylacoleo model at the Mt Isa Riversleigh Fossil Centre.
This is what I've seen and experienced over the years, it opens your eyes a bit. Have you had any experiences like mine? What do you think, please let me know?
A Point of Interest Worthy of Note
Below is an excerpt form the book by Isabel Wilkinson, Forgotten Country, Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education, 1980. p 122.
Contact Paul Clacher
Cropper Paul, Healy Tony, “Out of the Shadows Mystery Animals of Australia”, Pan Macmillan, 1994
Flett Josie, A History of BUNYIPS, Australia's Great Mystery Water Beasts, Tyalgum, Australia, Free Spirit Press, 1999
Inserra Rose, Australia Files Mysteries, Reed Library Cardigan Street, Melbourne, 1996. p10-11.
Menkhorst Peter, Knight Frank, A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia, Australia, Oxford University Press, 2001. (ISBN 0 19550870 X.)
”Old Torrington A History of Torrington and District 1881 – 1981”, Glen Innes, Examiner Printing Service, 1981, p 86
Smith Malcolm, “Bunyips & Bigfoots In search of Australia’s Mystery Animals”, Millennium Books, 1996
Triggs Barbara, Tracks, Scats and Other Traces, A Field Guide to Australian Mammals, UK, Oxford University Press, 2001
Williams Fred, "A History of Fraser Island - Written in Sand", Jackaranda Press, Milton, Brisbane, pp 124 - 130., 1982, ISBN 0 7016 1491 9.
Other Cryptozoological Web Sites of Interest