The Gippsland Phantom Cat is a feline cryptid in the Gippsland region of south-eastern Victoria in Australia. Although feral cats are present throughout Australia, there has yet to be any definitive proof that big cats exist in Australia, despite hundreds of reported sightings.
Gippsland Phantom Cat, also known as the Gippsland Big Cat, has been reported in the region since the 1970s. Dr. John Henry, a researcher from Deakin University, studied the reported sightings from the 1970s and concluded that it was "beyond reasonable doubt" that large cats were roaming the Grampians region of Victoria.
In June 2005, Kurt Engel, a deer hunter from Noble Park, shot what he claimed was a large cat in rugged terrain near the town of Sale. Engel photographed the dead cat, before cutting off its 26" long tail and dumping the body in a river. Mitochondrial DNA testing results determined that the beast was a feral cat, at least on its mother's side.
In 2012 the State Government found the existence of big cats in Victoria to be “highly unlikely.” The conclusion according to the former Victorian Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh was big cats sighted over the years were large feral domestic cat.
The tale of the Gippsland big cat is closely related to similar tales of exotic felines that have been reported for many decades in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, commonly known as the Blue Mountains cat.
The general consensus among experts is that the sightings are actually of large, domestic cats, or feral descendants of domestic cat. Others believe that the Gippsland Phantom Cat can be traced back to pumas let loose by the United States military, who were based in Victoria during World War II. A pair of pumas (or other large cat) were used as mascots and, upon the end of the war, it is speculated that the animals were released into the wild, somewhere in the Gippsland region (although some claim the cats were released in Grampians National Park) where they subsequently bred.