Marsupial Tiger Cat

The tiger cat I refer to in this section is much larger than either of the quoll species which were once widespread in Gippsland. It is an animal perhaps 1.5m long which dwarfs both the cat-sized Eastern Quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus) and the rarer Spot-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) which is sometimes referred to as a Tiger Quoll or even Tiger Cat, which no doubt has led to some confusion when people refer to the large marsupial predator. The Spot-tailed Quoll is about double the size of the Eastern Quoll and while these are rarely seen nowadays there has been some scientific evidence from hair traps that they are still some small colonies in south and east Gippsland.

The mysterious Tiger Cat which was once reported widely in the Gippsland foothills is described as having savage fangs and claws. You will not find it in any modern book on Australian fauna yet it has was seen frequently and often shot or trapper by bush workers in years gone by. In Queensland it is known as the Queensland Tiger or Yarri, and at once time it had a scientific name but it was dropped when scientists failed to produce a dead specimen for cataloguing. There is some evidence that this creature existed in Gippsland up until the 1950s and 1960s. These cat-like marsupials were often described as being in battle with kangaroos and wallabies.

The “Gippsland Tiger” was commonly reported in the 1930s but in most cases large dingos and feral dogs were generally found to be the ones causing havoc with farmers’ flocks. Rod Estoppey, an assistant inspector of Fisheries and Game in Gippsland, lived in the foothills at Culloden, north of Briagolong, and spent many years trying to convince authorities of a large marsupial tiger’s existence. He claimed it had decimated sheep flocks in the area during the early 1950s. He described it as cat-like, able to climb trees and frequently used to take the carcasses of prey up into the fork of trees. He was not alone and many of the bush workers and hunters came to his aid. They described the animal as fawn-colored with black ring-like markings. It was apparently a ferocious animal which used to take on their dogs in battle and they spoke of how they had often caught it in dingo traps and either released them or shot them. Unfortunately, no-one seems to have kept the pelt.

Some believed the Tiger Cats lived in hollow trees and logs and the list of sightings stretched from the Dargo High Plains down to the foothills around Briagolong. The description of the markings as ring-like is interesting because to me this does not suggest stripes like those of a tiger or Thylacine (Thylacinus cyanocephalus.) Some people believe this mysterious animal could be descended from Thylacoleo, the long-extinct marsupial lion, which is known only from fossil records. These fossils show the creature had massive sabre-tooth fangs but these modern sightings, while mentioning fangs, do not suggest they were overly long.

Interestingly, the Briagolong bush must be crawling with carnivores who vie with each other for prey as it is an area where I have commonly received reports of Thylacines (Tasmanian tigers) and black panthers. (See other sections) To my way of thinking, there must have been something there which was not a quoll and was obviously much larger, because the timber workers were well-acquainted with these smaller marsupial carnivores and would not be mistaken.  Perhaps there are no longer reported sightings of the tiger cat because much of the Briagolong bush was burnt out in the 1965 bushfires. If this mystery animal still exists it is probably in small pockets in the wilds of East Gippsland or up in the Avon wilderness area which were not affected by these or later fires.  What was it? In my mind, the jury is still out. I would recommend  anyone who has more interest in the marsupial tiger cat or other cryptid animals to visit or the forum Quest for Thylacoleo.

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