'Coffs Harbour Critter' identified

Taronga Zoo staff say the Coffs Harbour Critter is a brush-tailed possum.
Taronga Zoo staff say the Coffs Harbour Critter is a brush-tailed possum.

IT HAS been dubbed the "Coffs Harbour Critter."

The unidentified creature that washed up on Diggers Beach in September and was found by Coffs Harbour local Peter Atkinson.

News of the bizarre find had people talking today after the photos appeared in the Coffs Coast Advocate.

By mid afternoon the story had gone national, as vets and mammal experts queued up to inspect the photographs and put forward their own theories.

At first Peter Atkinson and two other men who stumbled across the Critter, thought it was a species of monkey.

Mr Atkinson outright denied the photos were a hoax, as one online forum suggested after the story went viral.

Other readers came forward saying it resembled a sloth or a cuscus, an earless possum found in Northern Queensland and Papua New Guinea.

A parallel was even made to a mysterious creature found in the United States in 2008, known as ‘The Montauk Monster.’

But Taronga Zoo staff say the animal is most likely a brush-tailed possum.

Its vet team and senior curators all agreed it was the corpse of a badly decomposed marsupial.

"The identification of the animal has been made slightly difficult because the possum appears to be a black furred brush tail variety," Taronga’s communications manager Lisa Keen said.

"This type of possum, a black furred morph, is really quite rare and is only found in some parts of Northern NSW as well as Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria," she said.

They said the lack of fur around the face and paws could have been caused by dermatitis or burn injuries.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service agreed saying the possum was most likely washed out to sea from a nearby creek after recent heavy rain.

A host of local residents called in with their own theories.

One caller, Jenna Anderson, pointed us in the direction of the ’Montauk Monster.’

This unidentified creature washed ashore, dead, on a beach near Montauk, New York in 2008.

It created a whirlwind of media attention across the United States and was later thought by experts to be a badly decomposed racoon based on dental patterns.

Given the monster has its own listing on Wikipedia, perhaps the "Coffs Harbour Critter" will one day share the same fame?

More on that story can be found at

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