THERE is growing speculation a panther is lurking in bushland around Lake Macquarie
A large feline paw print has been located in mud at Wyee.
And a dismembered kangaroo found in the grounds of Morisset Hospital, at Bonnells Bay, is fueling the panther rumours.
A local father and son have added weight to online reports of big cat sightings in the area by capturing a plaster cast of a paw print they say appears to be from a large predatory cat.
Glenn Wright and his son Jack Tessier, 16, of Cardiff recently discovered the footprint while four-wheel driving off Old Maitland Road, not far from Bethshan Church, at Wyee.
“We made a plaster cast of the paw print and showed it to a vet and she said it definitely wasn’t from a dog,” Mr Wright said.
He said the vet identified the foot structure as being cat like.
“And unlike a dog paw print which shows the claws, the claws in our plaster cast print are retracted, and that’s what a cat does when it walks around,” Mr Wright said.
“The vet said judging by the size of the paw print, it was from an animal the size of a great dane.”
Jack describes himself as a keen cryptozoologist – that is, he has an interest in the search for animals whose existence has not been proven.
While cryptids typically include fabled creatures such as yowies, the term is also used to describe unconfirmed occurrences of known animals in foreign locations.
“I don’t believe in all cryptids, and I’m sceptical about yowies, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if there was a big cat lurking in the bushland of Lake Macquarie,” Jack said.
He said the Australia bush would provide all a panther needed to survive.
But he’s not jumping to any conclusions.
“Right now, I just want to get the paw print fully explained by an expert,” he said.
The Lakes Mail has inspected the paw print in question, and compared it to plaster casts of paw prints the pair took from dogs at the same Wyee location.
The differences are evident.
Mr Wright said he was ready for “harsh critics” to challenge the pair.
But he said his son had always approached his topic of interest rationally.
“People who believe in ghosts and who go looking for ghosts, will ‘see’ something, anything, to incarnate what they think is a ghost,” Mr Wright said.
“But Jack isn’t like that. He goes out into the bush with an open mind, not expecting to find anything, but with an eye open for any evidence that might be there.”
Mr Wright said their paw print find immediately got him thinking about a dismembered kangaroo he and Jack found at Morisset Hospital earlier.
“At Bonnells Bay we found the remains of a kangaroo that were scattered all over the place,” he said.
Rangers from Local Land Services are aware of the pair’s find and plan to inspect the plaster cast.
Jack also retrieved what he thinks are strands of fur from the plaster cast. He has them stored in a vial and wants them to be tested, too.
Exactly how panthers might have come to live in the Australian bush is not such a mystery, Jack said.
“The story goes that during World War II, American soldiers brought panther cubs to Australia as gifts. But after the war, some of the panthers escaped or were released,” he said.