OPEN MIND: University of the Sunshine Coast wildlife ecology lecturer Dr Scott Burnett.
OPEN MIND: University of the Sunshine Coast wildlife ecology lecturer Dr Scott Burnett. Contributed

Wildlife expert joins hunt for Coast's big cat

WILDLIFE expert Dr Scott Burnett hopes the most recent Coast big cat sighting will end his 30-year search for a mysterious beast.

He will put some heat-sensing cameras up at Ilkley resident Ken Coulter's property on Friday in an attempt to film what was stalking guinea fowl last week.

Mr Coulter described the animal as about four or five times the size of a large cat, with jet black fur on its head, chest and shoulders and grey fur on the rest of its body.

He said the animal moved like a member of the big cat family.

Dr Burnett, who lectures in wildlife ecology at University of the Sunshine Coast, agreed to do a bit of investigating after Mr Coulter got in contact with him.

"I've always worked on these animals that are not easy to work on," Dr Burnett said.

He has previously dedicated a lot of his search efforts to finding quolls, a small carnivorous marsupial.

"From so many scientific points of view it is extremely unlikely there would be a population of big cats roaming anywhere in Australia."

Dr Burnett referenced the plight of the Sumatran tiger, which was considered critically endangered with numbers down to their last several thousand animals.

He said applying that to a handful of panthers or big cats that may have been released or escaped into the wild made it hard to believe they would have survived.

"It just doesn't make sense from an ecological point of view that they could propagate to a self-sustaining population."

However, he said he kept an open mind.

He said he had chased up sightings of big cats and other animals for 30 years.

"Every one I've been able to get to the bottom of has turned out to be something mundane."

That hasn't deterred him from continuing the hunt.

He said he planned to check the cameras at the end of the month.

"I want to believe."