The big cat is back.
The elusive and possibly apocryphal black panther has apparently returned to the Blue Mountains, with a reported sighting last week near Pulpit Rock in Blackheath.
Perth visitor Sam Maher was bushwalking on his own on Thursday, March 15, somewhere between Pulpit Rock and Pope’s Glen Creek, when he felt eyes upon him.
“At the time I was listening to a podcast with my headphones in when, suddenly, I became overwhelmed with the sensation that I was being watched,” he said.
“My automatic reaction was to spin around, rip out my headphones and look behind me. As I did so the sound of panicked movement erupted in front of me, forcing me to look back, catching an undeniable glimpse of the back of a large jet-black animal with a long tail as it ripped up the earth in a panic before leaping into the dense shrub just four or five metres up the path from where I stood.”
At first he thought it was a wild dog, but it seemed too large and also had a long flowing tail.
“I found myself stunned, standing still on the path as I watched the dust settle in front of me thinking: 'What the actual f... was that?'”
He picked up a stick and, with phone camera in the other hand, approached the bush into which the animal had fled. He paused for a few moments at the shrub before having second thoughts.
“I was petrified,” he admitted, saying he’d also twisted his knee in the excitement.
At the time, Mr Maher said he had never heard of the rumours of large cats roaming parts of the Australian bush. It was only later when he was researching to see what it could have been that he came across a Gazette article from last year about a sighting in Springwood.
“I feel a little bit funny. You read stories like this and you think this guy’s full of s… but I have to stick by what my eyes saw.
“I’m usually an extreme skeptic with this stuff because I come from a science background [he is an orthopedic technician], but my eyes don’t lie.”
The last reported panther sighting was near Martin’s Lookout in Springwood in April 2017.
Hazelbrook resident Mike Williams, co-author of a book on the subject, said he had heard many reports of sightings.
"When we were researching our book, Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers, we came across scores of similar stories throughout the Mountains and Hawkesbury regions.
"The observations were largely consistent: large black animal, larger than a dog, often startled by bushwalkers into revealing itself."