Sightings of a mysterious big cat in the Hunter have been reported for decades, but two of Cessnock Library's own librarians have had their own close up encounters with this elusive creature.
In her regular Unlock the Past column Cessnock local studies librarian KIMBERLEY O'SULLIVAN sheds light on the mystery with first hand testimonies from her colleagues.
The first goes back to about 1999, when our librarian was a child living behind the Rover bus depot.
Her home backed onto bushland, a natural playground for the siblings, it was here she had her first sighting of the cat.
She described the animal she spotted as "a very large black cat-like creature sitting just before the trees on a slight incline".
"As we approached it turned and left, but we saw it another couple of times in similar spots over the next few weeks," she said.
Nine years ago her husband was driving at night on Wollombi Road near Ellalong and saw something similar.
"His attention was drawn by bright, reflective eyes on the side of the road ahead of him," she said.
"The creature proceeded to run across the road, causing him to slow down. He described it as being a panther, or a giant black cat...".
A year ago another one of our librarians had an encounter with the cat.
She was driving down Ellalong Road, on her way to the town, when near the Ellalong sign, on the right-hand side of the road, the cat appeared.
"A big cat crossed the road, it was about 10 metres in front of my car. It was confident and unhurried," she said.
"It strolled across the road and disappeared into ferny undergrowth behind the suburb sign on the left.
"It did not appear to have what I would describe as the musculature or shape of a domestic feral.
"It was large, black and I would describe it as somewhere between a puma and panther."
People who have seen the animal give consistent descriptions: a very large size (too big even for a feral cat), jet-black colour and its confident demeanour, moving with a slinky power.
Corrabare State Forest has been pinpointed as a possible home.
With its wild terrain, overgrown tracks, ridgelines and valleys it would provide easy and ample protective cover.
As this forest adjoins large areas of the Cessnock Local Government Area, potentially the cat-like creature could appear from the forest and disappear back into the forest's protective wilderness if it felt under threat.
Have you seen the black panther-like cat?
Contact us at Cessnock Library at firstname.lastname@example.org or ACM at email@example.com to tell us your stories!
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