Ever wonder if there’s still anything out there left to discover? Since I was a kid I loved exploring, even if I didn’t get to do it in the outdoors much. And what I couldn’t physically do, I often played out in my imagination.
Grand adventures happened in my head, full of action in the unexplored wilderness. Mountains, caves and vast forests. That’s all I could sometimes think about.
Once I grew older and discovered the joys getting outside, I was able to fulfil that desire and see what was out there. I started to live the adventures I had always dreamed about. And though the map of the world is getting smaller as we explore the farthest reaches, every now and then we still have a few mysteries that surprise us and make us wonder.
What is still out there?
MYSTERIES IN THE WILDERNESS
In Australia, nothing conjures up more discussion on mysteries than the Tasmanian Tiger. Unfortunately always filmed in grainy, blurry footage, the excitement doesn’t cease for many when a new sighting occurs.
I’m a bit skeptical an animal can hide itself so well, especially with all the new technology available today, but sometimes you do wonder, or even hope, that some of these extinct creatures could still be alive. More so as it is often our fault that they end up on the extinction list in the first place.
And it wouldn't be the first time either for something to come back after being lost for so long. There are always animals that are being re-discovered. Life has an incredible way of going on.
So it was back in 2012 when I had my own discovery that I didn't expect. My own little wilderness mystery!
ALONE IN THE FOREST
I was exploring creeks in Mount Mee national park, North of Brisbane in Australia, by myself one summer in 2012. I liked to be out there alone sometimes. It was peaceful and I had the benefit of seeing all the wildlife better as I wouldn’t make as much noise.
Driving my 4WD on a fire trail into the middle of nowhere, I started along a creek to explore another branch. With lush forest all around and the water running clear, the only downside was the cloudy weather that threatened to drop some rain.
As I came up to a bend in the creek, a large fallen tree lay across it as a convenient bridge to cross the water. I balanced my way across and as I jumped down on the other side something caught my eye.
In the sandy bank of the creek were some large animal tracks. They stood out like nothing I had ever seen, I just couldn’t look away.
I crouched down and put my hand next to it. My hairs on my neck stood up and I had the sense of being watched. I couldn’t shake it. I looked around. The forest seemed so much darker in the overcast day and it was unnerving.
I tried to let logical thought take over. There couldn’t be anything out there. I examined the tracks again. I had never owned a cat but it looked similar. It was then that I noticed the smaller tracks, exactly the same, around it.
My investigation came up with a story. The animal had young offspring and the log was a good place to cross. It made sense.
But what could make the tracks?
Australia doesn’t have any large animals like bears, cougars or mountain lions. All the other animals, like Kangaroos and Koalas, make pretty specific tracks that I had seen many times before.
Whatever this was, I didn’t feel comfortable being there and I decided to head back to the car. A few quick pictures on my phone and I was out of there. And it didn’t take me long to reach my 4WD!
THE NEXT DAY
I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I wasn't scared, although it had been a strange feeling, I was just very curious as to what it had been.
I did some google searches and found many articles, posts and pictures of ‘wild cats’. These once domesticated cats, had grown feral and over the course of a few generations, were believed to have grown up to 3 times in size. The reasoning was they were at the top of the food chain. All native and introduced animals could not escape and defend themselves.
Along with the cats, there were wild dogs, which are quite well known, but the prints in the sand were much bigger than the average dog paw.
I decided to call the ranger in charge and find out more.
I was expecting a fairly standard reply long the lines of “no such thing exists” but instead he not only confirmed that he knew many farmers that surround the national park having seen them and taken photos of ‘big black cats’, but that livestock had been killed many times as well!
So unlike the Tasmanian Tiger, these black cats have clear photos and much more evidence that they exist!
As many cat handlers from zoos had said, these ‘black cats’ and other large cats found in Australia, were the result of the many times these animals had escaped from zoos as well as the US army mascots that were released after world war 2 by US servicemen.
The cat's, like mountain lions, are extremely good at adapting to new habitats and climates. This means, according to one cat expert, that they would thrive in the bush.
After seeing the photos, the ranger recommended I send the photos to the ARFRA (Australian-rare-fauna-research-association) to inspect. They replied within 24 hours and were very keen for me to go out and take plaster casts of them as they had no staff in our state that could assist.
I had all the intentions of going the following weekend, but heavy rain that week made the chance of the tracks still being there quite slim. The river would have been in flood and the tracks washed away.
So I didn't go and left the mystery behind.
Mt Mee has some beautiful rainforest to explore!
All this made me think, maybe there are still some mysteries left for us? You never know what you might find. But with the natural environment under threat from our developments, consumption and encroachment, we are eroding the chances of all species, let alone the ones close to extinction, have of surviving.
So getting out and exploring is a great way of getting in touch with the outdoors, and with more awareness comes a greater respect and love for our environment.
The planet is, after all, our home. And we still want some mysteries left to explore!
Do you have any discoveries of your own? Ever seen something cool or bizarre? Post a comment below!