|1936 to present
Smith investigated a
total of 320 sightings from 1960 to 1980, sourced from the records of the
National Parks & Wildlife Service, members of the public, the press,
and the Queen Victoria Museum and Tasmanian Museum archives. He noted
that a large number of sightings remained unrecorded. The reasons
for these undocumented reports appear to have been fear of public ridicule
for the individual reporting the sighting, or concerns over changes in
land use should thylacines be found to inhabit a particular area.
of thylacine sightings from 1960 to 1980 (n=243)
graph icon to view data:
Smith graded a total of 320 sightings against his scale, rating each as
"Good", "Fair", or "Poor". A total of 107 sightings were deemed "Good",
101 "Fair" and 112 "Poor". Not surprisingly, peaks in sightings tended
to be associated with the publicity given to the various thylacine
It is interesting to note that those sightings graded as "Good" (see map
below) appear to mirror the former area of distribution of thylacines throughout
Tasmania. Sleightholme & Campbell (2015) question the reliability of
sightings far removed from the known areas of occupancy in the 1930s, as
even with statutory protection, thylacine numbers failed to make any significant
Smith gives detail on five of the "good" sightings that he classes as intriguing:
"In 1970, a group
of 6 well-respected people from a farming community in the North-East were
travelling one night between Launceston and Scottsdale when, at 12:30 am,
an animal 'about the size of a sheep dog' loped slowly across the road
in the car headlights, 'half trotting and half walking'. There were
stripes around the butt of the tail, which 'was very thick at the base
and carried straight off the body, unlike the tail of any other animal'.
All of the party were familiar with native fauna and felt sure that the
animal was not one they had seen before. They felt certain that it
a Tasmanian tiger, but did not report it immediately for fear of ridicule".
Distribution of sightings
graded "Good" 1960-1980. Source: Smith 1980.
"In 1971, a reliable
and experienced hunter was stalking a group of 4 deer in remote 'high country'
in Eastern Tasmania. At 4:20 pm as he crawled over a clump of dead
wattles, downwind from the deer, a large animal shot out from underneath
him, brushing its head against the barrel of his gun. Its build was
like a cross between a corgi and a kelpie, about 18 inches high at the
shoulder. Its coat was "the colour of yellow beach sand" except for
dark brown stripes across its back. The stripes were about 1½
inches wide and disappeared 2/3 of the way down its sides. It ran,
not very fast, with a peculiar swaying, seesaw motion of the back-bone.
As the hunter was sure that Tasmanian tigers were extinct, he thought that
the animal was 'some kind of cross between a devil and a wild dog', or
that if it were a dog then it must have been deformed. The strange
animal ran straight towards the deer, which scattered breaking in all directions.
A stag lashed out twice at the animal, with its hind legs, and then fled,
passing within a metre of the astonished human observer. The animal
remained in view for about 150 metres before disappearing into dry sclerophyll
forest. The hunter did not believe that he could have seen a thylacine
until he later saw a stuffed museum specimen". Note
"In 1972, a local
workman in the North West was driving alone along a remote road at 9 pm.
As he rounded a sharp corner he had to swerve and brake to avoid an animal
the size of a big dog. It was a 'dirty yellow colour' and had stripes
across its back. It had a large ugly dog like head with erect ears.
The animal walked stiffly away into dense rain forest".
"In 1977, 2 local
policemen in the North East were driving home through open dry sclerophyll
forest at 10:30 pm, when they had to brake to avoid hitting a light coloured,
striped, dog-like animal. The animal was moving at a slow lope or
trot and did not change pace. The officers submitted signed statements
to the Police Commissioner about the incident, and both felt certain that
they had seen a Tasmanian tiger".