NEWS AND VIEWS – BLUE MOUNTAINS, NSW, AUSTRALIA: Based on quite vague pawprints and loosely formulated theories there has been speculation about the possibility of “big cats” roaming around the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, NSW. The phrase “big cats” has been used loosely because the hikers speculated that there were mountain lions in these mountains but mountain lions are not big cats technically. They also refer to a theory “that it is a very large mountain lion or cougar or a lynx”. The cougar is a mountain lion so I am afraid that this tracker, Mr Kaplan, has got it wrong. And if he has got it wrong on the type of cat being referred to it may be fair to speculate that he is wrong on other aspects of the discussion as well.
The problem is that the pawprints are in the sand of a river which makes them very indistinct and imprecise. They speculate that if there are mountain lions in this area of Australia they might be generational offspring of wild cats released into the Blue Mountains in the 1940s and 50s. They even speculate that these “big cats” mated with feral cats.
That, too, I think is highly speculative and probably anatomically and physically incorrect and impossible. I don’t think a mountain lion can mate with a feral or domestic cat. I am presuming that the article that I am reading is referring to domestic cats gone feral or feral cats born in the wild. Either way they are the same size as domestic cats and there is the physical problem of a mountain lion mating with a feral cat and there is also a genetic barrier to a successful mating.
The premier authority on the hybridisation of cats and in particular the mating of large cats with smaller domestic cats is Sarah Hartwell of the messybeast.com website. She has no reference to a successful mating of a cougar and a domestic cat. This does not surprise me.
Once again, what is being said by the people speculating that mountain lions might exist in this part of Australia is wrong and this undermines their general theory.
A report has been written. I’ve not seen it. It says that it is unlikely but not impossible that big cats escaped from private zoos or circuses into the wild forming foundation cats. The report also says that the evidence does not support the presence of panthers or other wild cats in the wild in NSW. But there are pawprints of suitable prey animals which indicates the cats could survive.
Apparently there is a theory that big cats were brought to Australia by World War II American soldiers in the 1940s as mascots. This theory gives credence to the possibility that they may still exist.
Commentators believe that the tracks were made by wallabies or dingoes. One person said that they are in a straight line, not side-by-side and they are a long way apart. This points to a hopping animal and not a walking one. Others claim that the footprints are those of dogs because the claw may be visible and you don’t see claw marks in cat pawprints because the claws are lifted off the ground when retracted.
I’m not sure whether this is a bad news day for the news media leading to this sort of speculative story which might pique the interest of readers. It certainly looks a bit like that. It doesn’t hold water to me and some of what is being said has holes in it.
SOME MORE ON BIG CAT SIGHTINGS: