Shock as driver sees 'panther' near Fairlie
A Timaru man got the fright of his life when he came across what he said was a large panther-like animal on State Highway 8.
The 50-year-old delivery driver, who did not want to be named, was returning to Timaru about 5.15am on Thursday after delivering newspapers to Fairlie.
He had just left the town and was driving over the crest of the Winscombe Hill when his headlights illuminated a black animal feeding on a dead rabbit in the middle of the road.
"I initially thought it was a dog or possum, but soon realised it was too big.
"As I got closer it turned towards me before darting off to the side of the road. I thought ‘what the hell was that?'.
"It had piercing green eyes with a distinctively long tail and was well over a metre long. I stopped and got out of the van where I saw it leave the road but couldn't see anything.
"Suddenly I heard a growl but it came more from behind me, not from where I was looking. It wasn't a dog growl, it sounded more like a cat with a deep throaty sound.
"I started to panic and was scared; I jumped back in the van and fumbled to find my camera. I sat looking in my mirrors for five or 10 minutes but whatever it was, it never reappeared. It was so bizarre. I've read of these type of stories but I have never believed them, not until now.
"I am just kicking myself that I wasn't fast enough with my camera. I always keep it in the van to photograph the sunrises but it was still dark and I never had it out".
This is not the first time a large panther-like animal has been seen and reported.
Sightings began in 1996 when a large black cat about the size of a labrador was seen by a woman as she was mountainbiking near Twizel. MAF was notified of the sighting and it was explained away as a misidentification of a large feral cat.
In August 1998 another large cat resembling a mountain lion was seen in the Dunstan Ranges near Cromwell. It was was described as the size of a labrador, with a dark orange-mustard-coloured pelt.
Residents in the Mataura area in Southland also reported seeing an animal similar to a bobcat.
Sightings of these cats are confined mainly to the Canterbury area with the suspicion that the animal or animals have escaped from a private collection.
- © Fairfax NZ News