July 05, 2018 06:42:35
People need to “get over” the idea that large cat sightings in regional Western Australia are panthers, a local wildlife ranger says.
Tales of panther sightings have circulated in Australia for decades, with stories detailing the origin of the formidable felines ranging from escaped circus animals to exotic pets that soldiers brought home from the war.
A farmer in Coorow, 275km from Perth in Western Australia, reported to rangers late last month that he had captured images of a big black cat on his property, prompting talks of alleged panthers in regional WA.
Despite reports of panther-like predators, local wildlife ranger Tim Gilbertson said he dealt with the reality of big cats and they were definitely not panthers.
He said despite this, they were still destructive to the Australian outback.
“People need to get over the idea the cats are panthers. It is just not on,” he said.
“They are big feral cats, at least 50 per cent bigger than a house cat and they are powerful.”
Mr Gilbertson said the size of the cats gave an indication of how easy it could be for them to source food.
He said he was concerned about the impact the cats had on native wildlife.
“If you are getting larger cats, you have to ask what they are eating. They are eating native animals,” Mr Gilbertson said.
“They are a highly effective predator and attack all of our lizards, marsupials and even birds — nothing is safe from them.”
Predators getting bigger
Mr Gilbertson said the impact of feral animals to native wildlife was not restricted to just cats.
“A lot of people are saying the foxes are getting bigger too, or at least heavier, which again is an indication the animal is not working hard to find food,” he said.
The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions said research showed that if introduced predators could be controlled, native fauna could had the opportunity to recover.
“About 30 native animal species have shown stable populations or sustained improvements in population size as a result of continual fox baiting programs,” a department spokesperson said.
“Feral cats can be more difficult to target than foxes and re-invade habitat rapidly, as such, intensive ongoing management is required to control feral cats.”
The department runs the Western Shield program and aims to protect native wildlife by controlling feral cat and fox populations with strategic baiting and other control measures.