A handout photo made available by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallerymade shows an extinct Tasmanian Tiger.
A handout photo made available by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallerymade shows an extinct Tasmanian Tiger. KATHRYN MEDLOCK / HANDOUT

Could there be a Tasmanian Tiger roaming our hills?

THE discovery of a decapitated joey near Nimbin has sparked debate about what may has caused the grisly demise of the animal.

Amongst the speculation was the theory it could have been the work of a Tasmanian Tiger or the Nimbin panther.

There have been reports of sightings of a cat-like creature for decades, not only on the Northern Rivers, but across the country.

Could the mystic creature really be out there?

Nimbin Panther Sightings Facebook site thinks so.

So many reports have filtered through to them, they have collated a map of sightings.

As well as at least 11 sightings in the Nimbin area, big cats have also been spotted near Tenterfield, Mallanganee and Mullumbimby. There are many more anecdotal stories on the site.

Margaret Hurley said she "sighted a large black shaped catlike animal with piercing eyes few years back, too big to be an ordinary cat - more size medium dog but very feline, quite majestic looking. Stood and watched me for a few minutes."

A number of sightings were reported in The Northern Star in 2012.

Shaun Britz, of Nimbin, was driving along Shipwrecks Rd near Nimbin Rocks in December that year when something caught his eye - something unusual, surprising, and big.

"Out of my right eye on the side of the road, I saw this thing. I didn't know what it was at first," Mr Britz said.

"I thought it was just a big black shadow, and then I realised, that's no shadow - that's a cat. And just as I realised that it was definitely a cat, it ran across the road in front of me."

 

Shaun Britz, of Nimbin, is on the lookout after encountering what he believes to be a panther along Nimbin Road while driving home at night. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
Shaun Britz, of Nimbin, is on the lookout after encountering what he believes to be a panther along Nimbin Road while driving home at night. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

Mr Britz said the creature was huge - at least a foot and half to two feet tall and at least three foot long, with a tail that stood up just like a cat when it ran and had big gold eyes as well as pricked up cat ears.

"It looked just like a cat, but it was definitely no domesticated cat," he said.

Byron Bay biologist Mary Gardner said she also saw an unusual animal which she was unwilling to try to classify.

In late October or early November that year she was walking along Lighthouse Rd at Byron Bay with a friend when both saw the animal.

"I don't know what it was," she said.

"It was something that does not fit in with anything I know at all.

"It had a long snout, thick rounded ears, a bony rump; it had a long wiry tail and a lean, hard body with stripes toward the rump."

Ms Gardner said when she first saw the animal she thought it would hop because it had long back legs and a raised rump, but was surprised when it moved with a rocking pacing gait.

The Northern Star spoke to wildlife expert Gary Opit at the time. He said the Northern Rivers may be home to a thylacine-type animal thought to be extinct on the mainland for more than 3000 years.

He shared stories of sightings of a creature around Mullumbimby and Byron Bay.

One account came from a Byron Bay veterinary nurse in 2008 when she saw a large fawn creature weighing about 18kg in her backyard.

"At 6am she heard a sound that was like possum grunting," Mr Opit said.

The animals could be thylacines or the marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, he said.

"There is nothing in the fossil record of the thylacine on the mainland since 3000 years ago, but there have been lots of reports of them from the early days of settlement to the present.

The marsupial lion was only known from fossil specimens which were 38,000 years old.

The lion measured 1.5 m long (head-tail) and 75 cm tall at the shoulder.

The thylacine was perceived to be extinct 50 or so years ago, he said, which made it much more likely it could still be in existence.

"It is more than likely they are all of the one species," he said.



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