| An interesting article
in the Australasian newspaper of the 23rd March 1940 (p. 36) makes reference
to the possibility, albeit remote, of a small population of thylacines
residing on Cape Barren Island:
"Marsupial Wolf on
Cape Barren Island? - Recently an interesting letter arrived from Mr. H.
W. Pentland, then at a C.R.B. camp near Gerangamete. The astonishing
part of his news lay in the statement that while encamped at a remote rocky
part of Cape Barren Island he had seen two of the extremely rare Tasmanian
tigers or marsupial wolves. Though never able to approach closely
to these elusive animals, Mr. Pentland often found the remains of their
kills. These were always wallabies and their leg-bones were usually
well broken up and eaten away. Fogs were frequent in the mountainous
region frequented by these mystery animals, but Mr. Pentland's enclosed
drawing showed that he had seen enough to sketch his impressions, and they
bore a distinct resemblance to illustrations of the Tasmanian wolf.
Approximately the size of a dingo, the animals were fawn grey on forequarters
and flanks, with rump and hindquarters appearing light yellowish at a distance.
Mr. L. Smith, a friend of Mr. Pentland, has spent many months in the wild
southwest of Tasmania, carrying provisions by pack horse to mining camps.
As a man experienced in the ways and appearance of the marsupial wolf his
general description of these remarkable looking animals appeared to tally
exactly with what Mr. Pentland had seen on Cape Barren Island. At
the present time the general opinion is that the marsupial wolf, tiger
or thylacine is confined to the remote southwest of Tasmania, being extremely
rare. No record of its occurrence on any Bass Strait islands has
ever been made. Still the matter is possible should the tigers have
been liberated there in previous years. It is also interesting to
remember that the mammalian fauna of these islands is closely similar to
that of Tasmania. Should this note come before the notice of any
Bass Strait islander, comments and hearsay on the subject would be most
Herb Pearce, a bushman
for catching tigers, was interviewed in the 1950s by Dr. Eric Guiler.
In one interview, Pearce confided in Guiler that he had flushed a female
thylacine and her three pups from a patch of tree ferns "about five
years ago". Pearce told Guiler that "he turned his dogs on
them", but dodged the issue as to whether the tigers were killed.
Guiler suspected that they were. Pearce's comment is significant
in that it confirms that the species was extant into the late 40s.
The area where this incident occurred is now flooded as part of Lake King
In "Precious Little
Remains" (Maynard & Gordon, 2014), the book covering the highly
successful Queen Victoria Museum exhibition of the same name, is an interesting
letter received by the museum in 1999 (p. 98). It gives detail of
a thylacine kill in 1949 made in the Natone / Hampshire area of NW Tasmania:
"My father was a
bushman. One night he arrived home, he was both upset and excited.
He put his sugar bag down on the floor and pulled a dead animal from it.
It was still warm. He said 'I have never seen anything like this
before'. He then went on to say that as he was on his way home from
work, the animal had attacked him and no matter how hard he tried to get
away from it, it just would not let him get away, so he was forced to kill
it with a piece of wood to save his life. This upset him very much
as he did not like to kill animals unless it was for food. However,
his excitement grew as we looked and touched this strange animal.
It had sloped hindquarters. Although it looked like a dog-type animal
it had differences. Its jaw was long and instead of round it looked
a little squarer; across its body it had stripes. My father had brought
home a Tasmanian tiger. It evidently had pups although he searched
for two days he could not find them. Its mate could have taken them
and hidden them. The Tasmanian tiger was buried in our garden and
the year was 1949".
Thylacines are shy and
reclusive animals, and attacks on humans very rare. It may well be
the case that the female that was killed was attempting to protect her
young, and perceived the bushman as a threat. Maynard & Gordon
do not elaborate further, but the story poses some interesting questions.
Did the museum investigate the area of the garden in which the thylacine
was buried? Did they recover any skeletal remains?