It has been more that 80 years since the last Tasmania tiger died in captivity, but there are a few parties that suspect this carnivorous marsupial still roams the Australian outback after dark. Among those are scientists from James Cook University, who are preparing a field survey on the very northern tip of Queensland in hopes of catching the nocturnal creature in action.

The thylacine, more commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger, was hunted to extinction by European settlers, who feared that the striped, wolf-like animals posed a threat to livestock. But in the decades since the last known-specimen died in a Hobart Zoo in 1936, there have been thousands of reported sightings and whispers of the tiger's survival have continued to circulate.

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In 2005, local magazine The Bulletin offered a AU$1.25 million reward for the capture of a live and uninjured Tasmanian tiger. In 2013, investigators from Britain's Centre for Fortean Zoology set out to find the animal, claiming to have gathered compelling evidence of its existence, including eye-witness accounts and droppings that it may have left behind. And tracking the Tasmanian tiger has even become a tourist attraction of sorts, with lodges, such as Tassie Tiger Lodge, running expeditions in search of the elusive predator.

For the James Cook University researchers, the motivation came from lengthy discussions with people in far-north Queensland claiming to have spotted the animals in the wild. One of the witnesses is an employee of the local parks service, and the other is a frequent camper and outdoorsman. The descriptions of the animals at two separate sites include detail on eyeshine color, body size, shape, and animal behavior and are inconsistent with other large-bodied animals in the area, the scientists say.

The researchers are convinced that these accounts could be the real deal, and as soon as next month, they will venture into the field and set up more than 50 camera traps in prospective sites. While the hope is to catch the Tasmanian tiger in action, the scientists say that the survey will also be useful in gathering data on other mammal species in the area, where wildlife populations have experienced severe decline in recent years.

Source: James Cook University