Australia is plagued by invasive species, and the common housecat is one of the most damaging. Several million feral cats roam Australia. Cats are superb and merciless hunters and they are wreaking havoc on vulnerable ground dwelling birds, mammals and reptiles.
One estimate puts the numbers of native wildlife killed annually in the millions.
Now the possibility exists that despite the ongoing control efforts they are getting larger. The Daily Mail Australia recently reported on sightings of a very large jet black cat. It is big enough that some think it may be a melanistic leopard rather than an oversized feral cat. That is not impossible as many large cats are kept as illegal pets and then released by their owners. Great Britain tightened its rules on possession of large cats in the 1970’s. It was argued that many illegally kept big cats such as leopards were released. Since that times there have been repeated sighting of real or imagined big cats. Britain now has a society that says it wants to get to the bottom of the rumors.
Back in Australia at least one of the witnesses does not believe the cat to be a leopard. There is, however, much room for scepticism. Many of the reports of giant feral cats simply do not pan out. Some experts say that domestic cats are limited in size by their genes and cannot get much bigger than large domestic cats.
Whether giant feral cats exist or not, Australia has been something of a dumping ground for animals from around the world. Cats and European rabbits are probably the two best known, but foxes, dromedary camels, water buffalo and non-native deer are also on the list. As our earlier story noted Australia is looking into the potential of new control weapons offered by advances in DNA.