Paws For Thought
Paws For Thought
*Australian Shooter magazine has run a series of articles about widespread reports of big cats in the Australian bush in the past five decades. Now we can bring you the results of DNA tests carried out on a carcass of a big cat shot by a Victorian hunter.
In June 2005, Melbourne hunter Kurt Engel shot and killed a very big cat.
It was so big that the hunter, who had unfortunately managed to blow the creature’s head off with the kill shot, only retrieved its tail as a souvenir and took a few trophy shots with his camera for posterity.
Word soon filtered out that someone had bagged a cat of monstrous proportions, and Australian big cat researcher Mike Williams was drawn to investigate.
Impressed by Engel’s sincerity and by what he saw, Williams organised for DNA testing and called in Victorian scientist and fellow researcher Bernie Mace, who also took samples of the hair and flesh for testing.
At the time, Williams was convinced that the sheer size of the creature meant that it had to be an exotic felid from the big cat family.
However, recent testing by Melbourne University found a 97% match with felis catus – domestic cat – blowing that theory out of the water…for now.
“I don’t know what is weirder - feral cats the size of leopards running around the bush or the possibility, still, of large exotic cats such as leopards running wild in Australia,” Williams said.
“There is more to this whole story than we have let out, for a variety of reasons. If all the tests are right, we now have in Australia, due to divergent evolution and mutations, animals the size of leopards that can kill a human.”
It has since been revealed that the freshly cleaned, 600mm tail taken from the animal, with some spinal vertebrae still intact, was taken by Kurt’s friend Mark Freeman to Department of Primary Industries spokesman Rob Clancy.
It was then examined by biologist Rory O`Brien at the Melbourne Museum and Adrian Howard at Melbourne Zoo.
“It appeared real,” O’Brien told Williams.
The biologist said none of those who examined the tail had expressed any reservations about its origins, adding that the tail appeared to have been cut from the animal in the normal fashion and not doctored in any way.
A Department of Primary Industries report on the tail stated: “just a small room for doubt, as the maximum diameter of the hairs in your sample (Engel’s) is larger than my reference hairs”.
Giving further credence to Engel’s story, a trapper recently supplied Williams with a photograph of a monster feral black cat hanging next to dingoes that measured 1080mm from its ears to the base of its tail, which puts it in the same size range as the animal Engel shot.
Williams has also received a compelling two-minute video showing an animal of the same size and description as those mentioned in this article.
The big cat researcher is still keen to hear from anyone with video or photographs of large cats or reports of unusual stock predation in Australia.
He can be reached on 0416 303 371, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or at PO Box 5, Hazelbrook, NSW, 2779.
Williams and Rebecca Lang, would like to thank Australian Shooter for its support, as well as all of the hunters who have contacted them with information. Keep it coming!