The Blue Mountains Panther is a legendary exotic big cat that has been reported by residents of the Blue Mountains area, west of Sydney, New South Wales for over a century.
It is speculated that the creature (or more probably, creatures), if it exists, may be the offspring of animals that escaped into the wilderness from travelling circuses in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries.
Another suggestion is that because the creature has been reported largely in old gold-mining regions, its ancestors may have been North American native wildcats imported from the United States by American miners during the gold rush of the 1850s, and later released.
Yet another alternative theory concerning the cat's origins relates to the now-closed African Lion Safari park, which was located at Warragamba. Sightings of the "panther" have been reported in this area, leading some to conclude that a big cat or cats may have escaped from the park before it was closed down, or during the removal of animals.
Proof of the panther's existence is largely limited to eyewitness encounters, combined with such circumstantial evidence as large feline-type scratches found high on trees, and the carcasses of sheep and cattle supposedly killed by it. In the latter case the remains have allegedly been found high in the fork of trees, well above the level of flood waters, or in areas not affected by flooding at all, suggesting that they were dragged there by a large, powerful predator.
In recent years reports of the Blue Mountains panthers have become increasingly frequent, particularly around the towns of Lithgow and Grose Vale. On several occasions, witnesses have reported being confronted by large dark-coloured feline creatures that are described as being much larger than any known feral cat. On one occasion in Kenthurst, NSW, a young boy was badly scratched by a large cat outside his home. Researchers Mike Williams and Ruby Lang, and witnesses Chris Coffey, Ken Pullen and Karen Dolan have helped to maintain a database of sightings across the greater Blue Mountains and Sydney basin region. The database has been used extensively by the State Government to investigate the phenomena, and has been utilised by the media.
While no conclusive evidence of the "panther" has yet been found, a 2004 report by New South Wales Department of Agriculture investigator Bill Atkinson, the department's rural NSW-based Agricultural Protection Officer, concluded: "Nothing found in this review conclusively proves the presence of free-ranging exotic large cats in New South Wales, but this cannot be discounted and seems more likely than not on the available evidence."
The Blue Mountains panther is thought to be a localised variant of the similar Gippsland phantom cat.