A black panther was spotted at Charlestown on Friday morning, hunting a ringtail possum, a resident claimed.
The woman did not want to be named for fear that people would think she’s mad.
“It was definitely not an ordinary cat. It wasn’t a feral cat and it wasn’t a household cat – it was bigger than that. A lot bigger – twice the size of a normal cat,” she said.
The panther was spotted behind houses that backs onto bush around a creek.
“I threw some water off my back deck next to my garden. It was 5.55am,” she said.
She saw a ringtail possum clinging to the mortar in between bricks on a brick wall and “this big black cat on top of a fence, diagonally across from it”.
“The cat was going for a possum, but couldn’t jump into the brick wall.
“The cat looked at me for about 30 seconds, then it leaped off the fence. As it leaped, its movements weren’t of a normal cat. It leaped onto a neighbour’s Colorbond fence. You could hear the heavy thump of its pads hitting the fence.
“It leaped into the backyard of another neighbour that backs onto the creek.
“As it was going across the lawn, you could see it was very young and strong. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
She did not get any photographic evidence of the creature, but said it looked like online photos of suspected black panthers.
“My son thinks I’m mad, but I know what I saw. I’m scared it will come back and get the ringtail possums.”
She had noticed wood ducks and their babies that live on the creek had recently gone missing.
The Herald reported on black panther sightings last year.
In Facebook comments on the Newcastle Herald’s website, suspected encounters with the elusive black panther were reported.
Lynda Gordon 'Flo' wrote: “I still remember a panther on our property at Bulga 35 years ago. Question it or not, I don't care. It was there. Embedded in my memory and my entire family’s memory like yesterday”.
Lorrin Maile said: “My grandparents lived at Bulga. When I was a kid, 10 to 15 years ago now, my aunt’s dog was attacked one New Year’s. We could never explain the injuries he had. A panther would fit the bill. He luckily survived and lived happily to a very old age”.
Ann Davies Krasny posted this: “I, along with my father, have seen a panther around the Colo area on the way to Singleton some years ago. Most people don't believe me, but it's still clear in my mind. Then my husband saw one also in the same vicinity on a separate occasion. The truth is out there!”
Morgan Roskell said: “I've not seen the panther but heard stories from a friend’s brother who has travelled and worked on farms – first-hand accounts”.
Jacqueline Ellis wrote: “I saw a panther near Gerogery about 20 years ago”.
Ally Pound said: “I was at a school camp on the Colo River 16 years ago. We were warned of a panther roaming through the bush, leaving dead goats up in trees”.
Mary-ann Whitlock posted this: “Saw a panther cross the road from Denman to Jerry’s Plains. We had just come down off the steep part of the road heading towards the horse studs. It crossed the road about 500 metres in front of us. We had elderly friends in front of us and they saw it too. It was a big black cat (shape of a leopard). I know what I saw and I don't care what people think either”.
Sonia Mitchell McElhinney said: “I swear I saw a panther at Tumbi Umbi 40 odd years ago. Whatever it was, it was definitely big and black and catlike”.
We turned to renowned cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy for answers about the black panther.
“The panther is actually a large marsupial cat,” said Rex, who has written a book titled, Big Cats of the Australian Wilderness.
“I have pawprints which show them to be marsupial, rather than feline. Females have been seen carrying pouched young in the Blue Mountains and on a plateau with access to the Megalong Valley.
“They’ve got plenty of country out there to hide in and they live on native wildlife.”
Rex said the panthers could be living representatives or a subspecies of an extinct creature from the ice age.
He was working on mapping the migratory path of panthers.
“The panthers move back and forth between the Blue Mountains and the Hunter area, in the forest country of the Mount Royal Range and the Gloucester Tops and across from there into the back of Taree.
“A small family group moves through the Singleton and Greta areas.”
Black Cat History
Black panther sightings in NSW have been happening for decades.
In 2001, a freedom-of-information request revealed the state government had been keeping a secret file on panthers.
In 2002, a NSW government inquiry found it was ‘‘more likely than not’’ a colony of big cats was roaming Sydney’s outskirts and beyond.
But a 2009 Department of Primary Industries report concluded that “there is still nothing to conclusively say that a large black cat exists”.
It said big cat sightings had been happening in NSW for more than 100 years.
More than 500 accounts had been logged across NSW in more recent times in areas including the western fringes from the Hunter to Sydney.
American soldiers were said to have brought panthers and pumas to Australia as mascots in World War II. Also, American goldminers brought big cats to NSW in the 1850s. And big cats were reportedly available on the black market years ago for $5000.