Leopards are living wild in Britain, survey suggests

The sightings of mystery big cats in the UK has been well-known for years, with not many people taking them seriously. However, for some reason, sightings of leopard-like, puma-like or lynx-like big cats have increased over the last few years, with an average of four sightings EVERYDAY.

The last big cat known to be living in Britain, the northern lynx, became extinct 2000 years ago. However, research suggests that cats not previously native to the UK are now living there, not in small numbers, but in large numbers.

Leopards are Prowling Britain, Survey Suggests

James Owen in England

for National Geographic News

June 3, 2004

If it is true that big cats haven't lived wild in the U.K. for 2,000 years, then, judging from the results of a new survey, a lot of large house cats now roam the British countryside.

Organized by British Big Cats Society (BBCS), the nationwide survey recorded 2,052 unconfirmed sightings of big cats in just 15 months, between January 2003 and March of this year.

The sighting counts averaged four each day. Two-thirds of the sightings involved large black animals resembling melanistic leopards, also known as panthers. If all these sightings had been confirmed, it would mean the U.K.'s leopard population now rivals that of the Kashmir region of the Indian subcontinent.

The survey was compiled with the help of farmers, police officers, and other observers. The BBCS, based near Plymouth, England, says, "There is little doubt that big cats are roaming Britain."

Besides leopards, the society claims Britain may also be home to wild pumas and other exotic felines such as lynx and caracals that have either escaped from or been deliberately released from zoos and private collections. Officially, the last large cat living in Britain was the northern lynx some 2,000 years ago.

The new data include reports of five attacks on horses, more than 30 sheep-kill incidents, and several discoveries of paw prints. Southwest and southeast England had the highest percentage of reported sightings.

Farmers were among the main contributors to the study. The National Farmers' Union, which represents farmers in England and Wales, had encouraged its members to become the "eyes and ears" of the countryside for the BBCS.

"They have had a lot of unexplained livestock kills and attacks," said British Big Cats Society founder Danny Bamping. "These involved not just sheep but goats, chickens, and horses. Farmers know what sort of damage foxes or dogs can cause, and many of them have seen these cats."

Domestic Cats

While Bamping concedes that a significant number of these "big cats" were probably nothing more than oversized domestic cats, deer, or foxes, he believes around 70 percent of the sightings were genuine.

He says the society already has good evidence for the existence of large felines in Britain, including records of 19 pumas, lynx, jungle cats, and leopards trapped, shot, or run over since 1980.

Bamping says the new study suggests these animals may even be breeding in the wild.

"We've had sightings of big cats with cubs and places where we've found big paw prints and small paw prints together," he said. "We've also had incidents where sheep have been killed and mauled rather than eaten, which indicates that maybe the mother is trying to teach the young how to kill."

Reported sightings in May included a large black cat with cubs seen by two girls in Oxfordshire, England. "They said the cubs were the same size as their German shepherd dog," Bamping added.

And in southwest England a driver traveling with two passengers near the town of Taunton claimed he had to brake sharply to avoid a big, catlike creature.

Passenger Nick Mansfield told the Taunton Times: "I'm not the sort of person who believes in these sorts of things, but we all saw it, so I can't be going mad. It looked to be about waist height and was very dark in color, so all we could really make out was its large, bright yellow eyes. If it wasn't a cat, then it was the biggest dog I have ever seen."

The alleged sighting comes four months after a local farmer claimed he lost livestock to a huge cat.

Brief Encounter

Bamping's own big cat encounter occurred 12 years ago while on a train passing through rural Kent in southeast England. He believes he spotted a black leopard in a field as the train accelerated slowly from a station.

"I saw it for about ten seconds," he added. "It's a bit like a video clip in the memory. There's no doubt in my mind that what I saw that day was not a domestic cat."

Bamping, who has a keen interest in cryptozoology (the study of unverified animals) and a coelacanth (a fish presumed extinct until its rediscovery in 193 tattooed on his arm, says the experience inspired him to set up the British Big Cats Society. The group's stated aim is to scientifically identify, quantify, and catalogue big cats living wild in Britain.

Members include Chris Moiser, a zoologist at Plymouth College of Further Education. While the deliberate release of exotic felines in Britain is a criminal offense, Moiser says it may not be a bad idea, because grazing animals such as deer currently have no natural predators to keep populations in check.

"The reintroduction of the lynx might, if handled correctly, help to balance this situation," he said.

As to the existence of wild big cats in Britain, the U.K. government is yet to be convinced. So far it has resisted BBCS calls for a U.K.-wide scientific study, saying existing evidence is not strong enough to justify this.

In the 1990s U.K. Ministry of Agriculture scientists did investigate the alleged presence of big cats on Bodmin Moor in the county of Cornwall. Numerous reported sightings, sheep kills, and blurred photographs and video images fueled speculation about the existence of a "Beast of Bodmin"—rumored to be one or more black leopards.

After their six-month study, however, the scientists concluded, "No verifiable evidence for the presence of a 'big cat' was found."

In the meantime, the hunt continues.

Maybe its the Yeti version of the cat....

This northern lynx was shot in Suffolk, England, after it reportedly killed 15 sheep. Scientists say the last large cats to live and breed in the wild in Britain were lynx some 2,000 years ago. But a new survey suggests that the country may now be home to wild leopards, pumas, and other big cats.

Photograph courtesy the British Big Cats Society
Here are a few recent big cats sightings in the Uk -

Panther Shock For Driver
A STUNNED motorist has told police a large "panther-type" cat walked in front of his car as he drove through Barrhead early today.
The man spotted the animal on Aurs Road around 1.45am. He immediately informed police and they launched a search of the area.
Officers described the man as a "credible witness", but found no trace of the animal, which was around the size of an alsatian, but closer to the ground - with a one metre long tail.
Scores of big cat sightings are reported in Scotland each year and the latest follows similar reports in Paisley and Ayrshire.

Glasgow Evening Times: 29th March 2005

Tracing The Lynx In Valley Beast Cases
By Chris Smith.
IT MIGHT be six years since we last reported on it but the Beast of Rivacre is alive and well.
Last week, after a London man was attacked by a panther-like creature in his garden, we recalled the stories we carried about a similar animal being seen by several people over a number of years in Rivacre Valley.
And we asked if anyone had any further sightings to tell us about.
One woman who got in touch believes not one but two big cats are stalking Ellesmere Port.
The Rivacre resident says she's seen a panther-like creature and, in a separate incident, a lynx.
She contacted the Pioneer about her encounters with the animals, which some zoologists call Alien Big Cats (ABCs) because they are alien to Britain.
Her first encounter came with the panther, dubbed the Beast of Rivacre, while she was walking her greyhounds 10 years ago.
'We were opposite what is known as Foxfields on a frosty night. I let the dogs off and they gave chase.
'The panther ran off. I've never been there again,' said the woman, who won't be identified.
About a year later she was walking her dogs down near the Vaux-hall Motors plant when a different creature made an appearance.
She said: 'We were walking down the path and a big lynx came right out in front of me, and stared at us before walking off. I ran straight home.'
The woman said she has also seen the animal sitting in a neighbour's oak tree in The Breck, Rivacre, and explained: 'It was eyeing her dog up.
'The animal was definitely a lynx. It was grey, mottled, with tassled hair at the end of its ears. It was also seen in another neighbour's garden.
'And my daughter spoke to a woman in Hillside Drive a few days later who said her cat was grabbed by a lynx, but the dog ran out and the lynx dropped the cat.'
Robert Hughes of Veronica Way, Little Sutton, told us he had spotted the black panther while walking his dog near Rivacre Brook one day last year.
He said: 'It was very big - about five feet long - and looked as if it was stalking something. Luckily, I don't think it saw me!
'I reported it to the ranger but he just looked at me a bit bemused.'

Ellesmere Port Pioneer: 6th April 2005


A Monster may be on the loose in Amber Valley.
By Richard Woolley
The mysterious big black cat has reared its head again, with three reported sightings in the last week.
A large black cat, described as "panther-like" was seen on three separate occasions on Wednesday June 8.
A visitor to Alfreton Park reported seeing the creature at 1.30pm, followed by another sighting in the same area.
Later the same day, a motorist said they saw the large cat while driving past Ormonde Fields Golf Club in Codnor.
Police say reports described the animal as about the size of an Alsatian dog, and "large and bulky, vastly bigger than an average cat". These reports are the latest in a string of sightings in the borough, but the first since 2003.
In October of that year, we reported a sighting in Greenhill Lane, Ripley. Later investigations by the RSPCA in the area found no evidence of a cat of that size.
The RSPCA advises anyone who sees such an animal to walk away calmly, and inform the authorities with as many details as they can.

Ripley Today: 16th June 2005

Has Kintyre's Black Beast Moved North
"After months without a report, there has been a sighting of the "black cat".
The mysterious animal, which has been described as being about the size of a fully-grown Alsatian dog, with a tail the same length as its body, has been spotted several times in and around kityre, but it now appears that it may have moved north.
A Kilchrenan resident was on the Inverinan - Dalavich road last week and slowed down for what he thought was a deer only to see, when 75 feet from the creature, that it was cat-like.
According to the man, the animal was four feet long and had short, upright ears.
He said it stood on the road, saw the car approaching and suddenly jumped back into the undergrowth, leaving one former sceptic, a believer.
If this is the same animal which has been spotted on numerous occasions in Kintyre, it will come as quite a relief to local farmers, because just three years ago a sheep farmer from Southend had more than 100 lambs killed in just a few weeks. His neighbour also had the throats ripped out of two of his lambs.
The animal, believed to be a puma, has been spotted regularly around Kintyre, with the most recent sighting in the village of Glenbarr last August"

Campletown Courier: 3rd June 2005


More LOADS of newspaper reports of big cat sightings froma round the UK visit here - www.scottishbigcats.co.uk/englishnews.htm (external - login to view)

It is updated regularly with recent sightings.
i live in a area where the odd sighting has occured.

This both interests me and scares me.
got any more sightings or info?
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