Researchers spot giant feral cat carrying dead goanna in outback

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Researchers have stumbled across a colossal feral cat while investigating animal carcasses near the Queensland-Northern Territory border.

It might look like a picture of a saber-toothed tiger, but this image of an enormous feral cat was actually captured by University of Sydney researcher Emma Spencer in the Simpson Desert.

Ms Spencer is using CarcassCam to find out what happens to the remains of animals killed by vehicles, drought and bushfires.

That’s when she stumbled across a photo of a large cat carrying a goanna in its mouth. The photo was taken in 2018 but the team only recently came across it in the background of a shot.

“A big fat cat wandered past the camera carrying a sand goanna in its mouth,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“It was quite a find when I came across it.”

A large feral cat pictured carrying a sand goanna in Simpson Desert.
An enormous cat takes off with a sand goanna in its mouth. Source: Emma Spencer

Ms Spencer added “it’s quite unusual” to see a cat carrying such a large sand goanna as most feral cats hunt birds and rodents.

“They will go for reptiles but it’s unusual to see a feral cat hunt for animals that are strong and large like sand goannas,” she said.

“It shows how versatile cats are.”

It’s not known how big this tenacious tabby is, but Ms Spencer said some feral cats can weigh more than 7kg, much bigger than most domestic cats.

A feral cat wanders the Simpson Desert.
Another feral cat wanders the desert. Source: Emma Spencer

While it might be quite remarkable to see, Ms Spencer said it could come as “bad news for our native species”.

Dr Sarah Legge, lead author of the study published in the journal Wildlife Research, told Guardian Australia last week it is estimated domestic cats alone kill 230 million Australian birds, mammals and rodents each year.

In August, the Northern Territory Government shared disturbing footage of a cat mauling a wallaby.

The NT Government used the footage to explain why people to keep cats inside.

Ms Spencer added while it can be a sensitive issue for cat owners “it’s imperative” people keep their pets indoors.

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