February 1991 - Culloden
This sighting was the first which really drew attention to the fact that people were seeing Thylacines in the central Gippsland area. An officer from the RAAF Base at East Sale contacted us to report a "horrible looking animal" which he and his wife saw while returning in his car from the popular picnic area of Blue Pools which is at Culloden, just north of Briagolong. He had no doubts it was a Tasmanian Tiger. His wife was the first to see the striped animal as it came up from Freestone Creek to cross the road in front of them and disappear in the bush. He said it had a "huge, horrible head, long snout and tiger stripes on its back" and he estimated it was higher than a German Shepherd dog. The animal appeared to have very powerful front quarters tapering towards its rear. When reaching a small embankment it rose onto its back legs and sprang powerfully over the embankment and into the bush. (Gippsland Times, February 22, 1991)
November 1996 - Loch Sport
Contacted by M who claimed Thylacine sightings were common in Loch Sport, a town on a thin neck of land in the Gippsland Lakes, wedged between Lake Victoria and the mostly dry Lake Reeve. He claimed to have seen a Thylacine six times since June 1994 on land behind his house which backed onto the ti-tree area bordering Lake Reeve. His neighbour had seen the animal four times and her husband two. M said that on one occasion he was walking his dog and had seen a Thylacine coming from 300m away as it skirted the edge of the lake. It got to within 25m before it stopped and headed away into the scrub. He described the animal as having a tail about 6.5cm thick, tapering slightly. The tail hung low near the ground as the Thylacine was coming towards him but when it loped off, the tail stood straight out behind. M described the gait of the animal as if it was lame in the hindquarters with the rear end moving up and down. Interestingly after this incident his dog refused to accompany him on walks until it was carried by his grandson, after which the dog again resumed walking through the scrub. He believed that he had seen three different animals. One was tall and thin, another much stockier, and recently he had seen a juvenile animal. The ears on the animals were small and did not stand up like a dog and he described their stripes as being light fawn on a mousy colored background. M said that on the night of October 24, 1996 four people had seen a Thylacine come up behind a house after a barbecue, presumably scavenging for chop bones. The animal had run away when he went to get his camera. He had plotted 22 sightings he had heard about in Loch Sport and while most were on the Lake Reeve side of town, a recent one was on the Lake Victoria side. M said he had taken to wearing a camera around his neck whenever he went for walks and had twice seen a Thylacine but these glimpses were fleeting and he had been unable to take a snap. An interesting addendum to this story was that in 1997 M came to see me in my office when I was out. My staff said he was excited and said he had a film in his 35mm camera he wanted me to develop because it contained something I would be interested in. He said he would return later but never did. Sadly, I found out later he had collapsed down the street and died of a heart attack. His camera and film were never found. (Gippsland Times, November 29, 1996)
Circa 1985 - Loch Sport
Publicity on the Thylacine sightings described by M in 1996 brought in several supporting reports. One of the more interesting was from an acquaintance N, who was a Canadian-born woman in her 70s. She called by to ask me what these Thylacine creatures were which I had written about. I grabbed a book from the shelf behind me, opened it at the famous Hobart Zoo photo of a Thylacine with its mouth wide open and she said “That’s what I saw!” N recounted how early one winter morning as she was driving from Loch Sport to Sale where she worked (a distance of about 40km) she had come across a striped animal crossing the road at the eastern end of Loch Sport. It stopped in the middle of the road and opened its mouth “widely and threateningly” before slowly moving into the thriptomene scrub. She said the rear half of the body was striped like the Thylacine pictured in my book and she remembered it had a long, thick tail and an unusual trot. She had reported her sighting to the local ranger’s office but when we contacted him he said they used to record Thylacine sightings in a book but had stopped doing so on instructions from above. He thought the book had been thrown out.
March 1992 - Bushy Park
A Briagolong woman on her way to Maffra to shop saw what she thought was a Thylacine in long grass beside the road at Bushy Park at about 10am. She described it as a muddy, grey-brown color with several pronounced dark brown stripes on the rump. It had rounded ears set to the side of the head and a heavy face. It was larger than a fox but smaller than a medium dog. The woman stopped her car and watched as the animal strutted onto the road but when she started backing up to get a better view the animal disappeared into the long grass. (Gippsland Times, March 31, 1992)
May 1992 - Bushy Park
I was contacted by a Briagolong woman who said she had seen a Thylacine on the Maffra side of the Avon River bridge at 11.40 the previous night. The animal had distinctive stripes on its hindquarters and base of the tail, was too big for a fox and “too grotesque” for a dog. She described it as cantering across the road but it did not quicken pace as she neared. (Gippsland Times, May 19, 1996). This and the previous sighting were just two of six sightings in the Bushy Park area in a few months which led locals to speculate that the Thylacine might have been old or sick and had moved out of its normal territory in the Briagolong foothills.
February 1997 - Golden Beach
A Stratford woman was driving towards Golden Beach, part of the Ninety Mile Beach, when she spotted a striped animal sniffing beside the road between the Loch Sport turn-off and Lake Reeve. She had to slow the vehicle to avoid hitting it. She said it was a dark grey color with dark tan to brown stripes on the rear section and with a long thick tail. The face was "raw-boned" and the body was thin like a whippet. She believed it was about the height of her cattle dog. She said she expected the animal to run off like a dog but when it moved, it surprised her. The animal went forward on its front legs like a kangaroo, then the rear legs propelled it forward quickly in a couple of bounds. The hindquarters had a definite up and down movement but the front legs moved like a cantering horse.
February 2004 - Golden Beach
Although I had left the newspaper seven years before I was contacted mid-afternoon by a couple who 20 years earlier used to provide me with reports for a weekly fishing column I wrote. I regard the couple as reliable witnesses. The husband said he and his wife had just seen a Thylacine feeding on a road-kill kangaroo carcass on the Longford-Lett's Beach Rd., midway between the Loch Sport turn-off and Lake Reeve. (Exact area as the 1997 sighting above). They had been returning home from surf fishing and had seen the animal clearly as they passed. He had turned his vehicle around and had driven back to the spot and it was only then that the striped animal moved off into the scrub. He placed a bucket on the closest white post to direct me to the site. I immediately drove to inspect the area which is about 30 minutes from Sale. I located the kangaroo carcass and carefully inspected the ground around it for footprints. It was lying on hard gravel and there was no spoor that I could detect. I inspected the sandy bank about two metres away and I could see animal tracks but the sand was so fine that there was nothing which could be identified. Afterwards I spoke to both my informants who firmly declared that the animal could be nothing other than a Thylacine. When they first drove past they were travelling about 80kmh but when they returned the husband had driven slowly, perhaps 20kmh, and they had been able to get quite close before the animal moved off. Interestingly, this area produced perhaps 4-5 other fleeting sightings of striped Thylacine-like animals between 1997 and 2004.
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