MYSTERY surrounding sightings of big cats in central Victoria could be solved, with a government study to look at evidence of the giant felines.
The state government is funding research to investigate stories of pumas and panthers in Victorian bushland.
A big cat reportedly spotted at Harcourt Valley Vineyards in 2008 is one of the elusive cats the study will look at.
Unexplained paw prints at the Harcourt property heightened concerns a big cat was roaming the area.
The sighting generated national intrigue, with people visiting the winery to catch a glimpse of the big cat.
Harcourt Valley Vineyards owner Kye Livingstone said he still had people coming in to share their own stories of sightings.
“People have set up traps near the property with waste bins and rope to try and catch it,” he said.
“One man came and camped up in the mountains for a few days.”
Harcourt Valley named a wine and a new beer label Sightings, in honour of the cat.
Around the Maryborough region, sightings have dated back 15 to 20 years.
Tarnagulla Hotel owner Mary Laverey said he had spoken to a lot of different people who had visited the pub to say they had sighted a large, black cat.
Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh launched the big cat report, to be run by the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
It follows a 2010 election pledge from Deputy Premier Peter Ryan, who said “there were enough credible observations” to conduct the study.
Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said the National Party leader’s obsession with hunting big cats was bizarre and out of touch with what the voters of regional Victoria expected from government.
Mr Livingstone said he was not certain the study would help find the big cat or resolve any lingering fears in the community over wild cats.
“There must be something out there, but what it is remains unknown,” he said.