Cougars in Australia? I think not.
In the news today there is the story of a "giant cat spotted in Western Australia". It was seen near the town of Lancelin, Western Australia. A security camera captured the animal in the distance. The camera appears to be on the property of Wayne and Helen Gardiner. They say that the cat was about 50-60 m away.
|Is this a CCTV image of a mountain lion (puma) in Australia? No, is my response. Image: Mr and Mrs Gardiner and ABC News.|
As usual, the image quality is very poor. In every single photograph of an unusual wild cat sighting the image quality is very poor which makes it impossible to be certain about what we are looking at (but we can almost always guess accurately). This is highly convenient!
It is said that people have occasionally reported sightings of mountain lions in Australia because some believe that the cat was brought over by the US during World War II as a mascot! Sounds plausible? I don't think so.
If and when they are seen it is normally in Western Australia. There has been at least one "compelling report" made annually.
As expected, nobody in Australia has ever captured a mountain lion on a camera in decent quality.
This is a news media story. If you look at the cat carefully and view it in relation to the shrubbery behind it and in front of it, we can see right away that it is not a mountain lion.
The plants in front of the cat are probably about 15-20 inches high. That is a good way to scale the size of this cat which appears to be around 17 inches tall to the shoulder which would represent the size of a very large feral cat.
We know that there are very large feral cats in Australia. Sometimes they can be unusually large because they are feeding on an abundance of prey animals. Therefore, over a long period of time, the feral cats of Australia have evolved to be much larger than your normal feral cat in other parts of the world. It is said that they are twice the normal size.
The mountain lion is one of the world's biggest cats. They are clearly much smaller than the Bengal tiger for instance but still substantially larger than the cat we see in the image.
And if they genuinely were mountain lions in Western Australia you would think that somebody would have captured the animal on camera at least once since World War II! It is difficult to miss such a large cat and certainly one which is so definitively out of place in Australia.
There are no wild cat species living on the Australian continent. There never has been because the continent drifted away from the mainland before wild cat species on the mainland had a chance to travel to the area of the world that became Australia. In short, there was a water barrier and there still is between what I call the 'mainland' and the Australian continent which is an island.