Phantom cats , also known as Alien Big Cats ( ABCs ), are large felines , such as jaguars , cougars , and leopards , which allegedly appear in regions outside their indigenous range. Sightings, tracks and predation have been reported in a number of countries and states including Canada , Britain , Australia , Spain , Ireland , New Zealand , Finland , Denmark , the Eastern United States , Hawaii , Italy and Luxembourg .

Australia

Sightings of exotic big cats in Australia began more than 100 years ago. The New South Wales State Government reported in 2003 that "more likely than not" there was a number of exotic big cats living deep in the bushlands near Sydney . [2] [3]

Gippsland phantom cat

In the Gippsland region of south-eastern Victoria , the origin of the cats is claimed to be American World War II airmen who brought cougars with them as mascots and released them in the Australian Bush.

Grampians puma

A study by Deakin University concluded that the existence of big cats in the Grampian mountains range was demonstrated "beyond reasonable doubt". [3]

Blue Mountains Panther

The Blue Mountains Panther is a phantom cat reported in sightings in the Blue Mountains area, west of Sydney for over a century. Speculation about the Blue Mountains Panther includes the theory that it descended from either circus or zoo escapees, or is a descendant of a military mascot.

Video footage showing a large black cat near Lithgow was examined by a group of seven zoo, museum, parks and agriculture staff, who concluded that it was a large domestic cat (2–3 times normal size) based partly on its morphology and partly on the behaviour of a nearby normal-sized domestic cat. [3]

Tantanoola Tiger

The region around Tantanoola , a town in the south-east of South Australia was supposed to have been the stalking ground of The Tantanoola Tiger during the late nineteenth century. In August 25, 1895 an animal believed to be the Tantanoola Tiger was shot by Tom Donovian and identified as an Assyrian wolf; although no such species appears to exist. It was stuffed and remains on display in the Tantanoola Hotel. [5] [6]

Sunshine Coast big cats

There have been some claims that "Big Cats" have stalked the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland since early in the 19th century. [7] [7] These claims have been met with skepticism. [7]

Britain

Since the 1960s, there have been many alleged sightings of big cats across Great Britain. [9] A 15-month survey conducted in 2003–04 by the British Big Cats Society gave the following regional breakdown, based on 2,052 sightings: South West 21%, South East 16%, East Anglia 12%, Scotland 11%, and West Midlands 9%. [10] Since 1903 a number of exotic cats, all of which are thought to have escaped from captivity, have been killed or captured. [8] [9] [11] [13] [17]

Denmark

In 1995, a big cat usually described as a lion (but sometimes as a lynx ) was dubbed the "Beast of Funen " by numerous eyewitnesses. [16] There was an earlier big-cat sighting from 1982 in southern Jutland . [16]

Finland

A supposed lion moved around Ruokolahti near the Finnish-Russian border and in Kristinestad and Närpes in Ostrobothnia in June–August 1992. There were multiple sightings. Tracks were identified by a government biologist as a big feline not native to Finland. The biologist was given police powers to capture or shoot the lion by the Ministry of Interior. Border guards participated in the hunt. The last reported sightings were in Russia, and there were reports that the lion was seen by Finnish border guards, [17] and that lion tracks were found in the raked sand field used by Russian border guards to detect crossings. The lion was never captured and the incidents have never been explained. One possible explanation could have been a railway accident of a circus train in Russia, where some of the animals escaped. [18] [38] [39]

The Netherlands

In 2005 a black cougar was allegedly spotted on several occasions in a wildlife preserve, but the animal, nicknamed Winnie , was later identified as an unusually large crossbreed between a domestic and a wild cat. [20]

New Zealand

Since the late 1990s, big cat sightings have been reported in widely separated parts of New Zealand, in both the North [21] and South Islands. [22] There have been several unverified panther sightings in Mid-Canterbury near Ashburton and in the nearby foothills of the Southern Alps , [23] [41] [25] but searches conducted there in 2003 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry found no corroborating physical evidence. [21]

United States

Phantom cat sightings in the United States should not be confused with sightings of jaguars in their native range in the U.S. states of New Mexico and Arizona .

California

Phantom black "panthers" have been reported across the state, and are seen with particular frequency at and around Mount Diablo , in Contra Costa County , California .

Hawaii

Stories of "mystery big cats" on the island of Maui have circulated since the late 1980s. In December 2002, sightings of a big cat increased in number in the Kula (upcountry) area, and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife requested the help of big cat wildlife biologists William Van Pelt and Stan Cunningham of the Arizona Game and Fish Department . Van Pelt and Cunningham believed the cat was probably a large feline, such as a jaguar , leopard , or cougar . [26] [27] It may have been illegally brought into Hawaii as a pet and released or allowed to wander in the wild. No big cat was detected by traps, infrared cameras, or professional trackers. A fur sample was obtained in 2003 but DNA analysis was inconclusive. The state's hunt for the cat was suspended in late November 2003, after three weeks without sightings. [28] Utah State University professor and wildlife biologist Robert Schmidt expressed strong doubts about the cat's existence, likening it to the Loch Ness monster . [29]

Delaware

There have been reported sightings of what is believed to be a mountain lion in the northern Delaware forests since the late 1990s. It is believed that the creature lives somewhere in the Pike Creek or White Clay Creek area, as this is where the majority of the numerous sightings have occurred. The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife believes there may be more than one mountain lion in Delaware, and that they originate from animals released from captivity. [44]

Illinois

While there have been confirmed recent sightings of mountain lions , [45] there have been numerous unconfirmed reports of black panthers . [46] [47] [48] If the reports are accurate, these could potentially be black mountain lions, but since there's never been any confirmed cases of melanism in mountain lions, [49] the accuracy of the sightings is doubtful.

North Carolina

Black panthers and other large "non-indigenous" cats have been sighted for many years in the vicinity of Oriental, NC. Accounts from locals and visitors alike have been documented in the local papers. [31]

Luxembourg

In 2009, a black panther was allegedly spotted in the industrial area of Bommelscheuer near Bascharage. [32] When police came, the panther was gone. In the following couple of days, the panther was spotted all over the country. For a while it was alleged that a panther had escaped a nearby zoo (Amnéville), but the zoo later denied that any panther was missing. A couple of days after the Bascharage incident, it also was mentioned that although the police did not find a panther, they did find an unusually large housecat. [33]

India

The Pogeyan is a large grey feline known to local people living in the Western Ghats, India. Its name is derived from the local dialect, and means "The cat that comes and goes like the mist." [51]

See also