- Yowie Hunters
MEET Queensland's yowie hunters.
This husband-and-wife team patrols forests armed with night-vision goggles, camouflage gear, recording equipment and a wealth of information on one of Australia's oldest mysteries.
Any night of the week, Caboolture's Nigel and Jeannie Francis can be found scouring the Gold and Sunshine Coast hinterlands for the large, hairy creatures they believe roam state forests and national parks.
Jeannie said she and her husband, both 30, who have a son called Riley, 12, were bush walkers who started researching yowies after hearing strange noises while hiking west of the Sunshine Coast.
"We were walking one day and heard noises we simply couldn't identify," she said.
"Once we started researching and more people started contacting us, we realised there was a lot that went on in the bush that couldn't be explained."
Nigel said you could have suburbia on one side of the highway and forest on the other and you can spend "a scary night on the forested side of the road".
"We've had reports from Ormeau on the Gold Coast, which is a real hotspot, to the Jimna State Forest about 50km west of the Sunshine Coast," he said.
When a report comes in, they take off. Any time of the day or night the couple, who run a flooring business, drop everything and go bush.
"You know you're on to something when you're walking through the bush and everything just stops," Jeannie said. "Birds go quiet, crickets stop, there's no sound and sometimes there's the most awful smell."
Other signs include tree beatings – the sound of one thick tree being beaten against another – or, in some cases, the sound of fists hitting breastbone.
"We had one report from a Canadian lumberjack who was using a chainsaw to cut trees at Ormeau," Jeannie said.
"Suddenly he felt he was being watched, looked up and saw a face in the fork of a tree about 2½ metres up.
"He froze. The creature, with a large, hairy body which we believe was a yowie, chased him through bushland until he reached his car and took off."
A videotaped interview with the man, who didn't want to be identified, showed him returning to the site for the first time since the incident. He appeared shaken.
"He was a tough bloke but there was no way he was going back out there alone" Jeannie said.
Other reports include an elderly couple who were camping in a mobile home at Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast in March 2002.
"The couple was asleep when their van was picked up and shaken," Nigel said.
"A male horticulturist was collecting plants 10km from Beerwah when he heard a strange scream and saw a large black furry man-like thing in front of him."
Nigel and Jeannie, who claim to have glimpsed a yowie at night, say they use a process of elimination to rule out native wildlife.
"We have to go in a little sceptical and eliminate all possibilities," Jeannie said.
"We know about the bush, about the animals out there and we know when there is a yowie in the area. We also know most people think we're a bit loony."
A former sceptic, environmental consultant Gary Opit, says the couple approached him in 2003 and asked him to visit an area where large "tree bites" had been reported. " At first I thought the marks would be the beak marks of yellow-tailed black cockatoos searching for wood-boring grubs but it wasn't the case," he said.
"Those marks are usually horizontal but these were vertical and appeared to be created by a large thumb nail not consistent with anything in the Australian bush."
He now believes the area is inhabited by an unidentified animal similar to the yowie.
For more information, visit www.yowiehunters.com.au