Headline: "Tourist reports spotting mountain lion at Moeraki" [Source published: December 13 1999]
A Canadian tourist who believes a North American mountain lion is stalking the Otago coast is having difficulty being taken seriously.
Professor Terry Chattington spotted what he thought was a mountain lion standing on boulders above Moeraki, south of Oamaru, on Friday afternoon. However, it was only when when he reached Te Anau yesterday that he found someone who, while they may not have taken him seriously, did at least listen. Professor Chattington said he and his wife, Stella, were photographing birds when he spotted a large golden- coloured cat, about 3m long, which was the spitting image of a North American mountain lion. "I know what these things look like - I've seen them before," Professor Chattington said.
He asked his wife to take a photograph of the animal, but, by the time she got her camera organised, it had moved away.
"It stood up on a rock and looked at us, surveying the territory.
"Then it walked down these huge boulders and disappeared."
The Chattingtons began looking for the signs to the zoo they assumed must have been up on the hill. "I thought the fences must have been hidden by the rocks and the bush," Mr Chattington said. "We told people in a restaurant and they just laughed. We couldn't find a police station to report it at." Mr Chattington notified the Department of Conservation on his arrival at Te Anau yesterday afternoon and from there Invercargill police were called. "This is a safety hazard all right. These things can move 30km in day no trouble. They would take sheep, cattle or even children," Professor Chattington said. Invercargill police said they had no plans to take the matter further. However, they would look into it again if more sightings were reported. Professor Chattington is not the first overseas visitor to report predatory felines roaming the wilds of the South Island.
In July this year, British tourists Mark and Deb Greening reported having sighted "a very large black creature" stalking the Mackenzie Country, about 59km from Omarama.
The couple reported the sighting of what they believed was a panther only after learning the animals were not natives of New Zealand mountains.
The mountain lion is a relatively shy animal native to Western Canada, North America and Mexico which preys on deer, wild pigs, rabbits, rodents and farm animals. It is usually light, tawny brown but can appear grey or almost black depending on the light. The mountain lion is also known as a cougar, puma or panther.
Headline: "Reward for proof of cat" [Source published: December 15 1999]
DUNEDIN -- The Moeraki "mountain lion" has a reward on its head.
A Canadian tourist claimed to have seen a big cat which looked like a North American mountain lion at Moeraki on Friday afternoon. Now Moeraki Boulders' restaurant owner John Pile is offering a reward for conclusive proof that the big cat exists. Since the news broke about Professor Terry Chattington's claim, Mr Pile's telephone has been running red hot about the sighting.
Professor Chattington "told people in a restaurant" close to Moeraki about the sighting of the mountain lion-like cat, on boulders near the coastal town. The cat walked down the boulders then disappeared without a trace.
Mr Pile said yesterday his restaurant staff did not know anything about the big cat, nor had they discussed it with Professor Chattington. He wondered whether the Canadian tourist had mixed up North Otago's Moeraki with Lake Moeraki on the West Coast.
The fact that Professor Chattington reported the sighting to the Department of Conservation at Te Anau may indicate that the tourist had come down the West Coast and been at Lake Moeraki.