Government-sponsored big cat study to go forward in Victoria, Australia

Hunt for big cats, including cougars, panthers or pumas, in Victoria begins after decades of reported sightings

Just weeks after it shelved plans to solve the decades-long mystery, the Victorian Government now wants to put the matter to rest once and for all.

Witness sightings have been recorded, over at least 60 years, of cougars, panthers or pumas in a wide stretch of Victoria from Gippsland to the Otways, the Grampians, central Victoria and at Beechworth in the northeast.

As reported in The Weekly Times, an official investigation has been launched in line with a 2010 pre-election pledge from Nationals leader Peter Ryan, who said “there were enough credible observations” to warrant the effort.

Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said work on the big cat study had already started. Mr Walsh said wild-dog control remained the Government’s priority but there were now “sufficient departmental resources available”.

“The study will review existing literature, reports, correspondence and other evidence for the presence of big cats in Victoria, and it includes liaison with relevant community groups and individuals who have reports or records of possible sightings,” Mr Walsh said.

“The study is expected to take several months to complete.”

Tip: Mick Vagg

This new study not being received well. Those who oppose it aren’t sure where these new resources came from to support a study since budget cuts were the norm. And others in the comments wonder just what this will achieve. Is it a waste of money?

The rest of the comments in this article consist of people saying they saw something. These reports have little to no value if followups reveal NO physical evidence. People misinterpret things they see all the time.

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  7 comments for “Government-sponsored big cat study to go forward in Victoria, Australia

  1. Gareth
    August 22, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    This is absurd.

  2. daran
    August 22, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    Cats and dogs and really, all animals have their own unique shape.
    Now anyone could mistake one for the other is beyond me.
    Thousands of sightings claiming large cat, they can’ t all be mistaken.

    • Gareth
      August 22, 2012 at 6:07 PM

      Yes they can. Once the idea of there being big cats out there takes hold people will see them. Like elves, goblins, demons and witches people have been seeing what they’ve been primed to believe in since they started being people.

      • Gareth
        August 22, 2012 at 6:10 PM

        Plus allocating money to this on a continent while their own, and probably the most unique wildlife on Earth, is under constant threat is a triumph of inanity.

        • Vin
          August 24, 2012 at 3:30 AM

          Trust me…the Irony has not been lost on the Locals…..its hard enough trying to convince the Population that Oz ISN’T just one huge Resource, let alone getting them to show interest in our own unique Wildlife….Ignorance is Ignorance, regardless of what part of the World you’re from. What does add ‘credibility’, sorta, is the ‘fact’ that we DO find some odd stow-aways on Australian Shores now and again…..in the 90’s I can remember Sydney going beserk coz someone found a LARGE American Snapping Turtle in a drain in Sydney’s Western Suburbs (apparently VERY VERY VERY lost, but otherwise in perfect health)….there have also been plenty of ‘Mascots’ released into Virgin Bushland by Australian, American and British Aircrews during WW2 that had served in the Middle East and throughout Asia, so, though HIGHLY unlikely, there is a VERY slim possibility that there may still be second hand sightings being handed down from the 50’s)…..I’m also betting that there are as many rich and irresponsible assholes with Private Zoos and Unlicensed Animals here in Oz as there are Elsewhere (Customs etc didn’t become a REAL issue until the 80’s, but usually, the Animals were being smuggled OUT, and not IN). But, I am also certain that Australians are just as bad at misinterpreting blurry shapes in the distance and can be as guilty of Logical Fallacy as any other Nationality, which is undoubtedly the case here….

          • Dr David Waldron
            August 25, 2012 at 7:53 PM

            One big issue which really occludes research into this as there have been individual big cats lose from zoos and private collections which have been later shot, trapped, or sometimes just disapeared. We are talking about known animals which are brought in here and the exotic animal trade was a booming and almost unregulated before 1942. Indeed, it was a government anxiety over vast numbers of exotic aniamls being brought back from Asia and the middle east that led to non regumental mascots being banned in 1942, especuially after some Poles who served in North Africa brought to Perth a pair of per monkeys with yellow fever. Similarly, in the mid/late 19th century the disaster of acclimatization and the pubhlic awareness of the sloppy and unregulated nature of the first traveling menageries and private collections (with numerous esapes reported in the media) led papers to claim, quite legitimately, that it needs to be controlled or Australia will have a repeat of the experiemce with rabbits, but with monkeys, big cats and other exotic and potentially even more destructive animals. So it was certainly drien by a legitimate anxiety and pre federation state governments spent a LOT of money and manpower chasing down what they thought were escaped big cats breeding in the wild, to be prsented as respolved to the public by the sooting of an abnormally large, or fierce looking, wild dog/dingo cross.

  3. Dr David Waldron
    August 25, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    I’ve been involved in some of the discussion with DSE personel on this and the upshot is that established resources used to identify wild dog attack is being opened to include stock adn wildlife killed which do not follow the normal pattern of wild dog attacks, and thus the driving engine of the folklore, as per the US so called cattle mutilations study. As a result it is using existing resources and facilities and as such the cost is extremely minimal. I quite welcome the study as it will clarify the types of predation behind big cat panics much the same as the cattle mutilations studies by vetinary scientists and the US department of agriculture resolved the causes of cattle mutilations in the 1980s. Further to this, given there are patterns of wildlife/stock attacks which do not match those of Dingoes/wild dogs it is worth knowing for wildlife and stock management regarding invasive species. I perhaps would have preferred some Veterinary scientists to write a few papers on it regarding expenditure of resources and the like but I think it is a good approach to take. What are the specific claims? Can they be tested systematically? the sightings mean very little regarding evidence but if you look at it historically seemingly inexplicable stock kills have been the driving phenomena behind Australia’s Big Cat panics since they first started in the mid 19th century. Indeed, panic over stock losses has led, on many occasions, to vast numbers of native wildlife beuing killed (often for stock kills the animals couldn’t phsyical have done) such as the thylacine, quolls, dingoes, wedgetailed eagles etc. Further to this on several occasions humans have copied the style of predation attributed to big cats in rural Australian folklore as cover for the theft of stock, so once again it is worth having clear information on tyoes of stcok predation made available. Further to this the study is building on research already ongoing on wild dog and feral cat scavenging and predation and will add considerable new material to those projects, which are again invaluable to wildlfie and agriculture managment. The issues about where the state government spends it money and the like is another question all together and largely unrelated given the way in which funds are attributed to departments anyway.

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