Wollongong councillor Bede Crasnich doesn’t want to be a big cat cynic.
The stories of a panther, or panthers, roaming the Illawarra escarpment captured his imagination years ago.
He’s read all the newspaper articles on the topic.
And he has spent many hours searching online for convincing photographs or reading about the intriguing theories of escaped circus animals or war-time mascots.
But the bottom line is: he’s just not buying it.
“There are some pictures you’ll see online which look convincing, but physical proof?” Cr Crasnich said.
“If you want proof kangaroos exist, you find their bodies. If you want proof deer exist, you find their bodies.
“Why is it, after 80 years of big cat sightings, we have not found a single bit of physical evidence?”
What Cr Crasnich will buy, is proof.
He’s offered to pay $5000 to anyone who can show him an Illawarra-caught panther.
“Why is it, after 80 years of big cat sightings, we have not found a single bit of physical evidence?”Bede Crasnich
The big cat must be captured alive, and must be unharmed, he stresses.
And he’ll only cough up the cash for a proper panther.
“It has to be a jungle cat. It has to have cougar, panther or any sort of exotic at in its genome,” he said.
“If it’s just a big feral cat that’s gone through a bit of living I’m not interested.
“I want tests done before I’ll part with cash.”
A photograph of an eight-centimetre paw print is the latest ‘sighting’ to rouse the big cat legend, in turn setting off a wave of reported sightings.
An Appin man, John Geragotellis, noticed the print off Austinmer’s Buttonshaw Drive on Easter Monday.
His photograph piqued the interest of former Australia Zoo big cat handler Vaughan King, founder of the recently formed Australian Big Cat Research group.
Mr King visited the Illawarra last month to search for further signs of the print’s creator. He found nothing, but has vowed to return the the sighting “hotspot” with his own cameras.
He will have to produce very convincing images to sway the disenchanted Cr Crasnich.
“What I think it is, is really large, feral cats, that from a distance look like jungle cats,” he said.
“You want [the legend] to be real, more than it is.”