Arnald Olsen, former hunter from the Norwegian highlands has opted for a life of solitude in pursuit of the iconic black feline that seeks haven in the rolling mountains of our region. With a landscape so expansive, so diverse, and with terrain so aggressive, knowing where to begin the hunt can be the biggest hurdle to overcome. What proves unique to the legend of the Gippsland Panther, however, is that every Gippslandian resident has their own chapter to add to the story, of which they’re all willing to share.
Although a loner and someone who prefers the company of the mountains over that of other humans, Arnald still ventures into town on occasion to gather supplies and share tales of his adventures. Defeated in his lack of success to date, a conversation sparked with a local fisherman about the last known whereabouts of the infamous mountain cat, where light was shone on the origin of its existence.
It is alleged that a time during the early/mid 1900s, a travelling circus company had vandals enter overnight and attempt to release some of the animals kept in captivity, of which success was had only with that of a pair of black panthers. With the average life expectancy of this genus falling between 12 and 20 years, it can be safely assumed that the original pair are long since deceased, with the belief that their offspring (or cross bred variants) are what populate our backyard, if only sparsely populous, with only 3-4 individuals thought to be in existence.
The fisherman continued to then speak of his experience. Mere weeks ago, whilst angling trout from the shore of the Tanjil River, he returned to find his campsite raided and daily catch missing. Assuming he’d been robbed by dirt bikers in the area, upon closer inspection he discovered the calling cards of the majestic beast. He claims to have spotted large, paw shaped footprints in the softer sections of the bank, and even claims to have plucked dense black fur from the twists in his swag’s guy-wires. So it was obvious. If Arnald was to have any success in his quest for the animal, it had to begin on the riverbank of the Tanjil, and for he himself to remain undetected, the only method in was via kayak.
Sometimes you arrive somewhere, somewhere silent; and there’s a feeling in the air. There’s not a breath of wind, nor a sound to be heard. This should provide a sense of calm, yet the feeling is entirely opposite. Silence is the sound of a predator, and every animal within the immediate vicinity has entered a state of high alert. Within meters of beaching the kayak, his presence was immediately identified. Fresh panther tracks surrounded the fallen wood, claw marks observed in a nearby log, and there was an eerie sense of death lingering in the humid air. He was here, and the torn remains of a bird’s nest on the water’s edge confirmed this assumption. The bite mark was light, but clear - this animal’s jaw was big.
An elaborate search through ground zero led only to remnants of a recent encounter. The beast was long gone, and it was clear. This was going to be a long game, and not one that could be overcome with just a single expedition.
As seen in Gippslandia Issue 02.
Help Arnald find the panther, and email your sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org