Renee Pilcher

Our mystery cat is a bit of a dog

AS cats go, Scott Burnett says at least one of the Gympie Region's big cats looks like a bit of a dog.

Dr Burnett's analysis, which he freely describes as less than 100 per cent certain, was made possible by Glenwood resident Colin Russow, who responded scientifically when he noticed unusually large animal prints of indeterminate origin at his property.

He went to his shed and returned with plaster of Paris to make casts of strange and very large paw prints he found.

Dr Burnett, who lectures in wildlife ecology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, had just returned to his office yesterday afternoon, with photographs of Mr Russow's casts.

Mr Russow told The Gympie Times he found prints indicating something very big but was unsure if they were canine or feline in origin.

He says that since his discovery and the media attention that followed, he has been amazed by the number of people reporting mysterious sightings in the area.

Fellow resident David Nelmes said he found muddy paw prints around his water tank one night, describing them as being the size of bread and butter plates across his back patio.

Dr Burnett initially told colleagues it was possible the prints belonged to a large feral cat. Others said wild cats may well have grown larger or adapted over generations to be bigger and more powerful, as a survival strategy.

However, after examining Mr Russow's casts yesterday, he said: “My initial view is that they're dog prints, not cat prints at all.

“The reason I say this is that they've all got toe nails and that's typical of dogs.

“Also there is the size of the toes compared to the main pad.

“In a cat, the toes are smaller than the main part; in a dog they're about the same size.

“I wouldn't stake any part of my anatomy on it. You can't be sure, but the photos of the plaster casts I took yesterday seem to be more likely a dog.”

Dr Burnett said he had done considerable work with animal prints, recently with the Army up north, checking the prints of cassowaries.

“The Army is quite a responsible land owner and they wanted to know about the cassowary population,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mary Valley residents and other opponents of the proposed Traveston Crossing dam have been quick to seize on Gympie's new “big cat” notoriety, incorporating it into their anti-dam campaign.

A new sign on the Bruce Highway, pictured above, depicts a cat, peeking around an anti-dam sign, at the Bruce Highway's intersection with Carlson Road, at what many may see as the new southern boundary of “big cat country.”