There has been an increase in reports of
There has been an increase in reports of "big black cats” across the Tweed region. Contributed

Tweed panther spotted?

It's a story that's been told countless times.

A friend, or friend of a friend, spots what appears to be a big cat or panther and reignites the age-old debate on whether or not the creatures exist in the wild.

And only in rare cases is a photo ever produced, which is usually blurry or poor quality at best.

The story resurfaced on social media this week after a resident's neighbour in Murwillumbah saw what they believed to be "a massive cat-like creature crossing the driveway in the early morning".

"(It was) much bigger than a feral cat, moved like a cat, not a dog, and was jet black," one Facebook user wrote.

The post received more than 70 comments about other 'big cats' or 'panther' sightings in the Tweed.

"Yes, saw something like this near Tomewin too a few years back," another user wrote.

 

There has been an influx of big cat sightings across the region in recent weeks.
There has been an influx of big cat sightings across the region in recent weeks.

The sighting comes after an influx of big cat sightings across the country, including on the Fraser Coast this week where a man claimed he was woken up by his dog barking at a panther-like creature.

The man described the cat as "1.25m long, with black shiny fur and razor- sharp, 5cm-long teeth".

Big cats have been the stuff of legend in Australia for decades, including on the Fraser Coast, the Blue Mountains and the Grampians National Park in Victoria.

On the Fraser Coast, folklore dictates the panther is the descendant of a big cat that escaped from the circus in the late 1800s and bred with local feral cats.

In Victoria, it's believed pumas were kept as mascots by the US military in the 1940s before the cats were released into the Grampians when the troops departed.

Wildlife expert and zoologist Gary Opit, who hosts a wildlife show on ABC Radio North Coast, said he had received around 25 reports of big black cats in the region.

"I received a report from a couple who were at the Tweed Golf Course on the Tweed River, they were driving home at night and they said without any doubt there was a huge black cat cross the road," he said.

 

Wildlife expert and zoologist Gary Opit.
Wildlife expert and zoologist Gary Opit.

Mr Opit said another man had reported a Tasmanian Tiger on Tweed Valley Way, while another report of a giant black cat had come from a man in Tyalgum.

"They all say it moves faster than a cat and has a big dog like head, but until we have DNA evidence, we have no idea what we're dealing with," he said.

But Currumbin Wildlife Hospital head veterinarian Dr Michael Pyne said there was "nothing to support" the existence of big cats in the Australian wild.

"I don't think it is likely. I think if it was happening there would be evidence of it," Dr Pyne said.

"Quite honestly, everyone has a camera in their pocket right now on their phone, while that story might have held up 20 years ago, now if there are no images of it I'm very much a sceptic."

He said while there were wild cats out there, they were "nowhere near the size of a puma".

"There are decent sized cats out there which can look bigger depending on how far away they are," he said.

"If anyone was claiming to see one, it probably was just a big wild cat."



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