N.S.W Government Report

NSW Agriculture Report on information available on the reported large black cat in the Blue Mountains.
Prepared by: Bill Atkinson, Agricultural Protection Officer.

Still From Footage 2001 - Lithgow Cat
Still - Footage 2001 - Lithgow Cat

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Report on information available on the reported large black cat in the Blue Mountains.
Prepared by: Bill Atkinson, Agricultural Protection Officer. NSW Agriculture


Over the last 100-150 years a large number of people have reported seeing large cats, up to lion size, in the Australian bush. These sightings have included animals like the Emmaville panther, the Kangaroo Valley panther and' the Grampians puma. Some believe that these animals are descendents of puma brought to Australia by American goldminers during the Australian gold rush in the mid-nineteenth century. This may explain why these sightings are generally made along the Great Dividing Range in eastern Australia and in the south-west of 'Western Australia where most of the early gold mining activity took place.

Deakin University conducted a study into sightings in the Grampian Mountains in Victoria and concluded that puma (Felis concolor) were free ranging in the Grampians. There are also stories that USA Armed Service personnel brought pumas, as , mascots, to Victoria during the Second World War and released puma in the Grampian Ranges when they left. Other theories, stories and sightings relate to either the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) or the marsupial lion (T. camifex). Some believe that these species still survive on mainland Australia.

The Grose Vale area in the north-western Sydney/Lower Blue Mountains area has become a hot point for sightings over the last seven or eight years with numerous sightings and other possible indications of a large feline predator in the area. Other recent sightings have been reported at the extremities of the Blue Mountains at Lithgow in the west, Turill in the north and Yerranderie in the south. There has been one recent sighting as far south as Adaminaby and, occasional sightings at Cooma.

At least four lions have been shot outside zoos and circuses in NSW over the past twenty years, three at Warragamba in two incidents and one at Broken Hill. Three lions also escaped from a circus in Coffs Harbour. It should be remembered that lions are more visible than other large cats which tend to be more secretive and cryptic. In 1992 a tiger escaped from a circus at St Mary's and was subsequently recaptured. A number of hoaxes, such as the flabbit, have been reported over the years. Yowies and bunyips are also reported from time to time.

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Cat Origins

Cat species are native to all continents except Australia, Antarctica and New Zealand.

Cat sizes

The cat family includes animals from those smaller than the domestic cat to lions and tigers. Puma are classified as small cats being the same genus as domestic cats while leopards, lions and tigers are classified as large cats. Generally domestic and feral cats weigh between 3 to 5 Kg (occasionally exceptionally large or obese domestic cats can weigh up to 9 or 10 Kg). The heaviest feral cat (from Western Australia) on record at the Australian Museum weighed over 16 Kg.

Cat species size / weight ranges are:

Type of Cat
Scientific Name
Weight Range
Head & Body Length
Tail Length
Shoulder Height
Domestic \ Feral cat
Felis cattus
Puma, Cougar
Felis concolor
Panthera pardus
Panthera onca

NSW Agriculture Inquiry

NSW Agriculture conducted a low level inquiry into sightings of the animal's. This inquiry includes a review of sightings and other evidence, and interviews with people who claim to have seen the animal's, particularly recently. Meetings were held with concerned residents of Grose Vale, where many of the sightings have occurred, and with experts who reviewed the physical evidence such as casts and photographs of foot-prints. Meeting with concerned. local residents, Moss Vale Rural Lands Protection Board and Hawkesbury City Council NSW Agriculture met with residents of the Grose Vale area, Hawkesbury City Council and the Moss Vale Rural Lands Protection Board (RLPB) in July 2003 to discuss their concerns.

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It was suggested at this meeting that NSW Agriculture instigate a "1800" telephone number to call for people who see such an animal. Hawkesbury Council offered council staff to assist in taking calls. The meeting discussed the need for public advice to inform the public of reasonable precautions when bushwalking in the Blue Mountains. Both the Hawkesbury Council and the RLPB have taken a keen interest in the sightings within their boundaries and have offered to help residents and the Government where they can. The Hawkesbury Council has offered its services as a point of contact to receive information from the public.

Discussions with staff of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

Discussions were held with staff of the NPWS from the lower Blue Mountains area in order to identify any additional information that the Service may contribute to the review, but no new information was found.

Data base of sightings and other evidence

Some residents of Grose Vale have collected data associated with this phenomenon. These data consist of approximately 270 events ranging from approximately 100 sightings to numerous reports of predation, scratches on trees and scats (faecal samples). The veracity of these sightings and evidence has not been tested.

The Data and Evidence include:

A report from Dr Hart, District Veterinarian of the Moss Vale Rural, Lands Protection Board regarding the results of an identification of a scat sample found at Grose Vale. Dr Hart believes identification confirms that the scat is from a large cat,

Scratch marks found metres up trees. The origin of these scratch marks is thought not to be made by a koala, possum, feral cat or goanna as they are so deep and long; and The hind leg of a sheep, claimed by Dr Keith Hart and........(name witheld)...........from GroseVale, to be mauled by a large animal because of the deep gashes through the flesh supposedly caused by the claws of a large cat.

Those who compiled this database have requested that the information contained within it is kept confidential' as previous publication of this information has led to their harassment by the media and others. NSW Agriculture has also collected information from people who have claimed to see the animal's. Some of these people have completed a report and sent it to the Department. Recent sightings have been included in the Department's own database.

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Interviews with people reporting sightings

Fifteen people who claim to have seen such an animal recently were interviewed and completed the sighting report form. (5)

The information collected was classified to estimate the relative veracity of the information. Sightings were weighted and grouped according to criteria that may affect validity. The higher the percentage score obtained the greater the credibility given to the observation. (6)

The credibility score is expressed as a percentage. A 100% score means that more than one person saw the animal at the sighting, the sighting was in broad daylight, for greater than five seconds and at a distance of less than 100 metres. The persons making the sighting are considered to have good bush skills and had an uninterrupted view of the animal and the recollection of the sighting was recorded less than one year after the sighting. A summary of these scores is attached A number of people claim to have seen the animals on more than one occasion.

Two of the recent sightings seared 100% and three scored 80%.

The two 100% sightings are at the northern extremity of the Blue Mountains area being at Turill and Mudgee and are only approximately 50 Km apart. A review of the local Mudgee newspaper has reported a number of large cat sightings during the last 25 years (one person claims to have seen four large cats, up to 700mm high, at one time).The three 80% scores would have scored 100% if those making the sightings had known bush skills.

Meeting by group of experts to discuss evidence

A group of people met on 7 August 2003 to discuss the evidence available. The group included:

Dr Sandy Ingleby Collection Manager, Australian Museum
Mr Will Meikle, Director of Life Sciences, Taronga Zoo
Mr David Pepper-Edwards; Divisional Manager, Taronga Zoo
Ms Louise Ginman, Unit Supervisor, Taronga Park Zoo
Kim de Govrik Area Manager NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Graeme Eggleston, Program Manager, NSW Agriculture.
Bill Atkinson, Agricultural Protection Officer, NSW Agriculture

The group viewed video footage of a large black cat filmed at Lithgow and concluded that the animal filmed was a very large feral cat, two to three times normal size. This was based on the profile of the animal and the shape of it head and ears. 'It was sitting very close to a large but obviously normal sized domestic cat. The group considered that a domestic cat would not be in such close proximity to a leopard or puma.

Enhanced Lithgow Cat Photograph
Enhanced Image from Original Footage
Enhancements: Greg Foster
Above Photograph "WAS NOT" part of this report
Greg Foster

The group also considered casts of foot prints taken at Oberon. While recognising that these casts were indistinct and inconclusive, the group decided that they were most likely dog prints. There was some discussion over the fact that the person who took the casts is a dog tracker and would presumably know the difference between dog and cat tracks. (7)

(5) A form designed by Ecoplan Australia, a wildlife and environmental consultant company.

(6) A system designed by.........(name witheld)..........in his Report On "Pumas in the Grampians Mountains: A Compelling Case. An Up-Dated Report of the .....Puma Study" .

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The group similarly decided that the casts of footprints taken at Grose Vale where those of a large dog. Photographs of footprints found on a concrete driveway at Grose Vale were also considered. The group could not decide on the nature of these foot prints. More information would be required before a decision on these could be made. (8)

The group considered maps of sightings and other activity (attached). These indicate that the animal's are mainly reported in the Blue Mountains with one as far south as Adaminaby and two in the Mudgee/Turill area. This would be consistent with the gold miner release theory discussed above.

Foot print library

The group viewed the beginning of a "foot print library" and considered it was a useful project.

This library will include casts of a number of cat species, dog breeds and fox prints and will be used as a reference for any further casts or photographs of suspect foot prints found in the future.

Hair library

The group discussed the identification of hair samples. NSW Agriculture is in the process of g thering samples of hair from various species of cat, including lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, puma and hair of several breeds of domestic cat. These samples will also be used as a reference with which to compare any suspect hairs found in future.

Other Reports

Dr Johannes Bauer

Dr Bauer is currently a lecturer in environmental management at the University of ...(name witheld).........He has wide experience in large cat surveys in China and Nepal. In June 1999 Dr Bauer inspected the Grose Vale area. Attached is his letter in which he lists evidence presented to him. Dr Bauer states that "Difficult as it seems to accept, the most likely explanation of the evidence is the presence of a large feline predator." Dr Bauer recommends that hair trapping, a method of gaining hair samples from animals in an area, and video cameras should be used to try and identify the animal. .

Dr Bauer is a lecturer in environmental management at the University of....(name witheld)..........Campus and has wide experience in large cat surveys in China and Nepal. He states that it is very difficult to distinguish between large dog and leopard prints. Dr Johannes Bauer pers comm. (7)

One of the group members was more convinced that the prints were those of a large cat. (8)

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....(name witheld)........is a veterinarian with many years experience with zoo animals, including large cats. In August 1998 he inspected the Grose Vale area and other evidence and concludes "I am convinced that a black panther is roaming free in the area".

Dr Keith Hart

In a number of communications Dr Hart, District Veterinarian with the Moss Vale Rural Lands Protection Board states that he is convinced that there is a large cat free living in the Grose Vale area.

Deakin Report

........(name witheld)..................... published a report "Pumas in the Grampians Mountains: A Compelling Case". This extensive report concludes on page 136 that "the data collected by the Deakin Puma Study Group, support a level of credibility for the preposition that a big cat population is established in the Grampians of south western Victoria that is 'beyond reasonable doubt".

Advisory Material

It will be recommended that NSW Agriculture publish a technical advisory note to assist the public in making informed decisions on the identity of strange foot prints and scats (faeces) and othe'r indications of large animal activity. This would provide more targeted information and data to assist in the identification of this/these animals. The advice would indicate the information required to positively identify the animal's. The public would be encouraged to think about other species eg; large dog, swamp wallaby or large domestic or feral cat before they contacted the authorities.


Nothing found in this review conclusively proves the presence of free ranging - exotic large cats in NSW, but this cannot be discounted and seems more likely than not on available evidence.


1. Maps of sightings/events
2. Copy of NSW Agriculture database
3. Credibility score for sightings
4. Minutes of the group of experts meeting
5. Report by Dr Johannes Bauer
6. Report by Dr.........­
7. Letter by Dr Keith Hart regarding the identification of a scat

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Large Cat Occurences

Appendix 4

Meeting between NSW Agriculture, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Taronga Park Zoo
and the Australian Museum to discuss current large black cat evidence.

Sydney NSW Agriculture Office, 7 August 2003


Graeme Eggleston (NSW Agriculture)
Bill Atkinson (NSW Agriculture)
Kim de Govrik (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service) Or
Sandy Ingleby (Australian Museum)
Will Meikle (Taronga Park Zoo)"
Dave Pepper-Edwards (Taronga Park Zoo)
Louise Ginman (Taronga Park Zoo)

The group discussed recent evidence of the reported large black cat in NSW.


The maps of sightings and other activity (attached) indicate that the animal(s) are mainly reported in the "Blue Mountains. This was supported by zoo staff ­who said that historically, sightings in Eastern Australia seem to occur in old gold mining areas and that anecdotal evidence suggests pumas (Felis " concolor) were brought to Australia by American gold miners in the 1850's. These animals may have subsequently escaped or were released causing numerous sightings over many years- in these areas.

Video of the "Lithgow panther"

The group viewed and decided that the large black cat filmed at Lithgow was a very large feral cat, two to three times the size of a normal feral cat. This decision was based on the profile of the animal and the shape of its head and ears and also because sitting very close to this animal was a large but obviously normal domestic cat. The group considered that a domestic cat would not be in such close proximity to a leopard or other such large cat or puma.

Plaster casts from Oberon

After much discussion about the indistinct nature of these casts the group. decided that they were dog prints. There was some discussion over the fact that the person who took the casts is a dog tracker and would presumably know the difference between dog and cat tracks. The group said photographs of the prints would be helpful - these may be available shortly.

Plaster casts from Grose Vale

The group decided that these were the footprint of a large dog.

Photograph of footprints on Concrete

The group decided that the photographic evidence of the footprints on concrete was inconclusive and that further discussion was necessary. (1)

Deakin University Report

David Pepper-Edwards informed the group of an article (attached) stating that Deakin University had conducted a study into strange events in the Grampian Mountains in Victoria and had concluded that puma (Felis concolor) were free ranging in the Grampians. NSW Agriculture library staff is trying to locate information on this paper.

Other possible sources of Information

Kim de Govrik suggested that,.......(name witheld).........from Sydney University may be able to assist with scat and hair analysis.

Dr Ingleby suggested that Mr.........(name witheld).................of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife who has been closely involved in the search for the Tasmanian tiger might be able to offer advice on how to gather and interpret data when the subject of the search is cryptic and the data is gathered from various sources. Mi (name witheld)..........................................has been contacted and he will send the names and email addresses 'of large cat contacts from America where they deal with this type of inquiry on a regular basis.

Gathering other Evidence

The group considered that hair trapping would be an appropriate method to gather further data on the identity of this animal. Hair trapping is a method that uses,a bait and sticky material to collect hair from animals attracted to the bait. The hair samples are then analysed by an expert to identify the species from which they came. Taronga zoo has started putting together a reference library of cat and dog footprints of varying sizes to assist in the identification of further footprints.

Advisory Material

The group decided that it would be advantageous to publish a technical advisory note to assist the public in making informed decisions as the identity of strange foot prints and scats (faeces) and other indications of large animal activity. This would provide more target information and data to assist in the identification of this/these animals.

(1) One of the expert group has stated that he believes that some of the prints were made by a small bobcat or lynx

Appendix 3 - Credibility of Sightings

No of People
Day or Morning! Evening! Night
Length of sighting in seconds
Clear Sighting
Recollection of old Sighting
Total estimated Reliability %
1 = 0.75 2+=1
<100 m =1 >100m =0.5
day = 1 morning! evening!
>5 sec=1<5 sec=0.5
good=1 unk=0.8
clear=1 unclear=0.25
<1 year=1 >1 year =0.5
20 day   unknown yes no 30.00
300 day 180 unknown yes no 40.00
50 day 60 unknown yes no 80.00
50 day 60 unknown yes no 80.00
  day   yes unknown yes 6.25
6 night 3 yes   no 7.03
35 day   unknown no yes 3.75
40 night   unknown yes yes 3.75
40 day 2400 unknown yes no 80.00
75 day 30 yes yes no 100.00
10 day 120 yes yes yes 28.13
30 day 60 yes yes yes 37.50
50   120 yes yes yes 28.13
50 day   yes yes no 37.50
5 night 5 unknown yes no 45.00
1 night 5 unknown yes no 45.00
30 day 30 yes yes no 75.00
100   5 yes yes no 56.25
1 night 2 unknown yes no 30.00
70 day 5 unknown yes no 60.00
100 night   yes yes yes 14.06
15 night 20 yes yes no 56.25
300   60 yes yes no 28.13
200 day 30 yes yes no 50.00
200 night 60 yes yes yes 18.75
7 night 2 unknown yes no 22.50
1 night 2 unknown yes no 22.50
20 day 1 unknown no no 10.00
30 evening 1 yes yes no 28.13
2 night 180 yes yes no 56.25
85 day 300 yes yes no 100.00


Dr. J.J Bauer
Eric Davies,
Program Leader, Vertebrate Pests, Division of Animal Industries,
37 Carrington Avenue, DUBBO NSW. 2830, 30/6/99
Fax: 0206881 1295

Panorama Avenue'
Bathurst NSW 2795 Australia
Telephone 02 6338 4386 F.acsimile 02 6338 4078

Re: NSW Agriculture. July, 1999
Black Panther Sightings at Richmond, Sydney

Dear Eric, Sorry to take some time to get back to you with the promised letter. Here it is.

Evaluation of evidence of an unknown animal in he vicinity of Richmond

On 16th of June 1999, I spent one day near Richmond, Sydney. This was to investigate evidence of an unknown animal in the vicinity of several properties, in particular of Mr..(name witheld).. and family. Other members of the investigation group were Bill Atkinson, NSW Agriculture, Ed Lennon ftom Taronga Zoo and a representative of the local Shire.

The evidence presented to us were:

1. A list of sighting since 1981, of an unknown animal described as a "Black Panther".
2. Photographs of livestock (goats) killed or injured by a predator. '
3. A scat analysis by B. Triggs presumably of this predator.
4. A footprint plaster cast from this animal.
5. Claw marks on several trees.
6. Several photographs of kills.
7. Map with the location of sightings and kills.
8. Visit, and description, of several kill sites.

My evaluation of the evidence is based on extensive past survey work in areas with scarce to abundant leopard or large cat populations, in Nepal and China. hltp:www.csu. edu.au

Difficult as it seems to accept, the most likely explanation of the evidence listed above is the presence of a large feline predator. In this area, most likely a leopard, less likely a jaguar (unless... this is an elaborate hoax by someone in the local community). I consider the habitat the animal, occurs in as optimal leopard habitat with probably abundant prey in the form of macropods, possums, cats, stray dogs, etc.

I would also think that within the densely forested area, dissected by many gorges and rock formations, the few sightings of this animal are not surprising (despite the hundreds of jungle surveys I have been on, I've only ever seen glimpses of leopard). The long time frame would suggest that the animal present in the area is now rather old. The increase in livestock attacks, or kills, during the past years, could further have some connection with the age of the animal. Leopards are extremely wary and intelligent animals, which are, even in open habitat, very difficult to see.

Leopards around human habitations in Nepal and India are generally more feared than tigers and I myself have encountered many stories of people killed by leopard. During 1985-1990 one leopard is presumed to have killed in excess of ten women and children in the Vicinity of Phokara, Nepal. Likely because of its old age and the resultant difficulty the animal had in obtaining its usual prey.

I consider the following considerations important.

1. Danger to Humans

While I do not think there is any evidence of this animal as dangerous there are several points that I consider as important for any strategies taken toward this animal. Which has really, by any standard, had a considerable impact on this community in Richmond.

2. Introduction Risk, Danger to 'Wildlife, etc.

I think it is unlikely that there is more than one animal in the region. There are, however, sightings quite remote from this location of "Black Panthers", which can be learnt from.

One local in Oberon, in 1992(?), claimed he was attacked by a "Black Panther". He was hospitalised, however the most likely explanation sought then was an encounter with a wombat while getting firewood while in a rather inebriated state. Even the slightest possibility that this might be the case would still commend the adoption of the 'precautionary principle'.


After the evaluation, our team installed 2 video cameras and several hair trap stations around Marking trees. These should be operated for some time to gain definite evidence of the animal. It might be worthwhile to develop some baiting locations with sand imprint arreas surrounding them. Upon evidence of leopard visitation it might be possible to poison these carcasses (with strychnine) for several nights with every precaution taken (warning of neighbours, keeping pets within the house, etc).

Yours sincerely.
Johannes J.J. Bauer, PhD
Wildlife Ecologist


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