Farmer says he's spotted black panther twice
JOHN Rourke didn't always sleep with a cane knife next to his bed.
But after seeing a black panther lurking near his Eudlo property for the second time, he's not taking any chances.
"I was loathe to tell anyone because they'd think I was crazy," said the ginger farm worker, whose most recent sighting was five weeks ago.
The first encounter was on School Rd, Eudlo, 15 months ago. At first he thought it was a black labrador.
"But it didn't travel like a black lab, and it had a tail about a metre long," Mr Rourke said.
Legend had it that a circus convoy crashed in 1959 about 300km from Eudlo, and a family of panthers was lost.
Mr Rourke urged local farmers to beware and protect their young livestock.
His encounter was one of several on the Sunshine Coast reported to wildlife expert Gary Opit, who had for 17 years fielded plant and animal identification questions from callers to his ABC talkback radio show.
He said more than 100 callers described animals such as giant gorillas, ape men, yowies, Tasmanian tigers and giant wild cats.
"The evidence is all anecdotal but there is a lot of similarity in reports, which makes you wonder whether we do have escaped big animals," he said. "I'm in two minds about it."
Buderim and other forested areas were most common locations for sightings on the Coast, Mr Opit said.
Sightings were reported at Palmwood in 1975, Glasshouse Mountains in 1980, the Maleny area in 1997 and Inglewood in 2000, he said.
In 2009 a panther-like cat was reported to be roaming near Gympie.
Do you think there is a panther prowling in Eudlo?
This poll ended on 15 December 2014.
Yes. It's been there since the circus accident
There might be. I'm not ruling it out
It's a feral cat. They get big
No. It's all nonsense
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
University of Sunshine Coast wildlife lecturer Dr Scott Burnett said he was sceptical.
"I want to believe, but I think it's highly unlikely from an ecological point of view that a population of big cats could exist and not be fairly well known in this neck of the woods," he said.
He agreed large predators survived in fewer numbers than animals lower in the food chain, but said populations of less than several hundred would have no chance of survival.
"We struggle to save the native species once it gets below 500 individuals," he said.
"So if there are any big cats here it would have to be such a tiny population. It beggars belief that they could survive over time."
Dr Burnett had been called out to investigate alleged sightings of panthers and mountain lions around the Coast.
"They all wind up to be dog prints," he said.