Belmont North's Daryl Tonks has seen a big black cat twice in the last three months on a trail south of Caves Beach.
Daryl runs the Yondeo Trail, which winds through the Wallarah National Park, to the secluded Pinny Beach.
"I do a bit of trail running. Twice in the last few months I've seen a black panther lookalike," said Daryl, who owns Swansea Surf Shop.
His second sighting was last Monday at about 7.45am.
"It's just bizarre. It jumped across the track. I only saw the rear end of it. It was black and had a long black tail. It was bigger than a rottweiler. The tail went up. It didn't drop down like a dog's tail.
"I was coming down the track, south of Yondeo. It's the same track I've seen it on twice. I looked up and saw its rear end going into the bush, heading towards the ocean.
"I was shit-scared. I turned my music off and pulled my phone out to see if it came back, but it didn't. I walked very warily down the track, as it was the only way I could get back. But I didn't see it again, thank god. I was freaking out that it would jump me."
His first sighting was very similar to the second one.
"That was about 6.30am, going up the same track pretty close to the exact same spot. The first time I saw it, it was coming from the ocean towards the west. The second time it was going the other way.
"The first time I saw the same thing - just the tail end of it."
He was glad he didn't see its head.
Asked if it could be a big feral cat, he said: "No, it's too big. It's bigger than a rottweiler. The tail is thick and big. It was straight and curling up. I thought, could it be a kangaroo? But it's not a kangaroo. It wasn't hopping, it was running. It freaked me out. It was unbelievable. I thought I was crazy the first time, then on Monday I went 'bloody hell, I've seen it again'."
Both big cat sightings happened on a track only "a couple of hundred metres from the beach".
"It's a good training track. It goes for 500 to 600 metres."
Daryl will run the Gold Coast half marathon this weekend, Raffertys Coastal Run the following weekend and the Jabulani Challenge in Sydney in August.
Next time he spots the elusive black panther, it could be third time lucky. He might nab a photo.
Daryl Tonks isn't alone in spotting big black cats in the Hunter bush.
Newcastle Herald readers have reported panther sightings at Mount Sugarloaf, Minmi, Wallsend, Munmorah, Swansea, Morisset, Wyee, Freemans Waterhole, Kurri Kurri, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton, the Watagan Mountains, Medowie and Stroud.
In June 2019, Chris Trees was riding his mountain bike when he spotted "a big, black cat" drop from a red gum tree at Mount Sugarloaf.
"It was easily the size of a rottweiler. It had a big, black, bushy tail. It scared the shit out of me," Chris said at the time.
"The head shape was definitely the shape of a cat. The body size was like a big black dog, but it had a really long cat-like tail."
The creature "stood up and faced me".
Vaughan King, founder of the Australian Big Cat Research Group, told the Herald previously that he believes there are three panther species in Australia: the leopard, jaguar and mountain lion. Big cats should not be hunted, as they'd only attack humans when sick, injured or under attack.
"They are naturally wary, elusive and will almost always run when they are noticed."
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