Australian man Michael Corr, 36, said he and his 11-year-old son were walking through the Tootgarook wetlands southeast of Melbourne on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, last January 14th, when they spotted an anomalous big cat.
Corr said he was able to take a photo of the black animal with his phone, just before it wandered away into the nearby reeds.
“I just thought that’s the biggest cat I’ve ever seen and it was just crossing the tracks as if it was stalking something,” Corr said. “My son ran in the other direction. We’ve been down there before and heard things rustling in the reeds but had never seen something like this.”
After sharing the photograph on social media, Corr said his inbox was “flooded” with messages from people who claimed to have seen black panthers in the same area. But many others who viewed the picture online were skeptical, dismissing it as either a large feral cat or a misidentified dog—possibly a black lab.
As for Corr, he said that the animal he saw definitely had the head of a cat and moved like a feline, and that there was no way he had misidentified a dog.
“I know feral cats get big, but it possibly could of been something else, as there are stories that go way back about panthers in the wild in Australia left from the travelling circus and also from World War Two,” he said.
“My son is spinning out! He’s doing research about [panthers], he’s fascinated and a bit scared too,” added Corr.
Controversy surrounding the existence of cryptid big cats in Australia has existed for over a century, with some believing that witnesses are misidentifying feral house cats, while others think the sightings could be explained by escaped exotic pets or even an undiscovered species of big cat native to Australia. The sightings are taken seriously enough that, in 2003, a New South Wales State Government inquiry found it “more likely than not” that a colony of “big cats” exists in the wilderness outside of Sydney. New South Wales borders Victoria to the north, and the states share a substantial amount of overlapping wilderness.