INDEX OF PAGE

1 BACKGROUND AND HISTORY

2 THE EVIDENCE MOUNTS

3 WHERE DO THEY COME FROM AND WHAT DO THEY EAT ?

4 WHAT TO DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A BIG CAT !

5 OTHER AREAS OF ACTIVITY THAT WE KNOW.

6 HOW TO CONTACT OURSELVES AND OTHER SITE LINKS INCLUDING THE CONFESSIONS IN THE PAPERS.

 

BACKGROUND AND HISTORY

 

There have been sightings of big cats or A.B.C (Alien Big Cats) in the U.K now since the 1970's and some going even further back. Most of these were centred on and around the moorlands of Exmoor, Bodmin and Dartmoor as well as West Wales and Scotland.

A large number of eyewitness accounts have been logged over the years, including the substantial numbers of slaughtered livestock, which bare all the hallmarks of having been killed by a large cat. This carnage has caused the government to launch various investigations and even saw the Royal Marines deployed for some weeks to South Molton in Devon in 1982 to no avail (although they did manage to get a look at the cat). Since that time, the killings continue along with regular sightings including a clear sighting near Redruth, by a bus full of councillors! And recently in the Autumn 2000, the secretary of the Royal Cornwall show and other adults in the party having a picnic saw a large Panther like cat on the edge of the moor. As well as numerous photographs and video evidence still the government line is that there are no big cats at large.

The sightings around the West Country are of two distinct creatures. One type is of a light brown cat, of the size of a medium to large dog and can be best described as like a small lioness. This fits in with a Puma (or cougar/mountain lion as it is called in the U.S.A). The other is of a large Alsation sized cat with a jet black to dark brown (in strong sun) coat and green/yellow piercing eyes and a tail of nearly 3 feet believed to be a black Leopard (or Panther to give it is common name). Both types have very muscular builds and move in a cat like way, which is often noticed as the first clue as to it not being a fox or a dog etc.

 

Sightings in East Midlands first occurred in the early 1990's, and were concentrated around the County of Rutland, 25 miles east of Leicester. Again, two distinct large cats were reported. One of a Puma i.e. a light sandy brown coat and the other a (black) Panther. The sightings grew and eventually encircled the county town of Oakham, due west of the massive Rutland water reservoir. At this point, myself Nigel Spencer and my father David Spencer started to take an interest, mainly because living in the countryside, it seemed inconceivable that large predatory cats could be roaming free. This became even more intriguing when sightings occurred near to my father's land and village of Knossington, on the Leics border however we still remained sceptical. Then in January 1995, my father had what was to be among one of the closest encounters in the U.K with the mysterious animal and started in earnest the search for the truth!

He was taking the family dog out for a morning walk at 07-15 and had just opened the gate to cross the lane adjacent to his house, when he heard the sound of pounding feet coming down the hill side opposite. Thinking it was a horse and noticing the field gate was open, he was just about to cross the road to close it when he noticed it was not a horse but a black creature of about the size of a Labrador dog, but lower to the ground. As it bounded down the frozen field and through the gateway, he realised it was heading straight for him. He shouted and the creature swerved some 6 feet away! And carried on at right angles down the lane. It had a small cat like head and long fluffy tail which was curved and held upright, along with a powerful odour of ammonia/ tom cat.

Given its colour and size (4 times larger than a domestic cat) it is thought to have been a young panther, maybe less than 2 years old. It is believed that it was out on an orbital night prowl using scent trails to navigate. These can cover up to 10 miles and allow almost trance like navigation, hence it nearly colliding with my father.

With a now indisputable sighting from a senior university lecturer, the media interest became intense and as more sightings came in, the task of logging accurate data began in earnest. The Rutland and Leics Panther Watch was formed, and links with local media, Police RSPCA, and the Panther expertise of Drayton Manor Zoo formed. It comprises of Myself, My father and Chris Mullins (Loughborough) and also other individuals who pass on or research the areas in their vicinity. We do not have any subscriptions or meetings etc but just work in contact at identifying any leads or sightings to build up a clearer picture on these magnificent creatures. Our only aim is to prove using photographic and other evidence, that these animals are really out there and are not some sort of mythical beasts, and are adapting in harmony to the English countryside. We do not wish to see these creatures harmed in any way,(unless of course they become a danger, and cannot be controlled.)

 

THE EVIDENCE MOUNTS

 

With the increased media coverage including television news, the numbers of sightings reported in increased, mainly due to the removal of the X.file status previously associated with these and the reluctance of people to admit to sighting these creatures. It has been refreshing to see the gradual shift of public opinion on this subject as the dwindling number of sceptics have their own sightings and become converted!

From the earliest sightings, Leicestershire and Rutland police have always taken a very professional approach to the subject and have been invaluable in interviewing and collating data from witnesses with dedicated wildlife officers maintaining a constant interest (off duty as well). This approach has altered only in that we now co operate together and pool information, dependent on the original contact, with many direct contacts being referred to ourselves. All the police wildlife liaison officers are aware of these creatures lifestyle and like ourselves, maintain that there is no evidence as to them being a threat to humans so long as they are not harmed or threatened. At all times, witnesses identities are preserved unless they request otherwise, and a working relationship with the local media is maintained. For various reasons, some information is withheld from them, to avoid sensational headlines at the time ! Although, in order to maintain coverage and encourage witnesses to report sightings, some interest has to be maintained. Obviously there comes a point when just reporting sightings becomes non newsworthy.

The official line remains that unless a serious threat to humans develops or vast numbers of livestock are attacked, then no action will be taken. To be realistic, short of a cat being cornered or trapped up a tree, then capturing a live or dead animal would prove to require immense resources and manpower and would still hold no guarantee of success and has the added danger of injuring a cat with potentially dangerous results, (as has occurred in America) . Despite the hundreds of sightings every year over most of the U.K, no task force or official log of reports exists, and depends largely on the local police knowledge and attitude. If you are getting large sightings in your area, then keep passing them on to your Wildlife officers, who will eventually take notice.

I would personally like to have a cat radio tagged to try to determine the rest of the wild cat's numbers and life styles (we are certain of some interaction between them). Whether this could ever occur on an ethical basis, even if it were physically possible remains to be seen. (It would be a very brave government to re-release a captured Panther even if it could help with any future Big Cat problems.)

 

Over the years, many big cat (Lynx, Puma or Panther) sightings have been recorded (and even more for all sorts of reasons go unreported). To give an idea of the areas they have been seen, please go to the panthermap of Leicestershire and Rutland showing the areas of sightings since we began to log them.

 

SO WHERE DID THEY COME FROM AND WHAT DO THEY EAT ?

 

It is now widely believed that the animals that are roaming not just in Rutland and Leics, but in nearly all the counties of the U.K and Ireland originate from animals that either escaped or were released following the introduction of the dangerous animals act in 1976. Up until this time, it was fashionable to own Panthers or Pumas, indeed one famous London store used to sell them! With the introduction of tighter controls and requirements for enclosures, many owners simply let their animals loose or even failed to register, and kept them . See the latest page on a confession by an ex Big Cat breeder on various Big Cat releases.

There are still thought to be illegal big cats (Lynx, Puma's Panther's etc) still in captivity, and when these invariably escape, they do not get reported as lost! These cats have adapted to the British countryside, a role that is surprisingly far easier than in their native countries where food is in short supply and other predators exit.

The current black market price for a Puma cub is thought to be less than £100! And there are plenty of examples of people keeping illegal Aligators and Crocs in their baths in Englands big Cities! It is quite conceivable that there are a number of young Panthers and Pumas kept at the bottom of some unscrupulous persons gardens as status symbols and the like.

As with the sightings in the West Country, there are two main types of big cats involved as well as a rarer third type.

The first types are of a black cat with a powerful muscular body and long curved tail. Size can be from medium dog up to 1.5 times larger than a Labrador and much longer. These descriptions fit in with a black (melanistic) Leopard or to give it its common name, a panther (all panthers are black). The Leopard is a native of Africa and Asia, and the panther is just a genetic variation on coat colouring. As there are only melanistic Leopards loose ( they were the ones kept as pets), spotted offspring are less likely to occur. The panther type cat is the most commonly sighted big cat across our area, and other regions.(Some sightings in strong light even describe the spots which are under the black coat)

The next common sightings are of a similar cat to that above, but with a brown to light sandy coat. Often mistakenly reported in as a lioness (hence the Lion on the loose stories that occur from time to time). This description fits in with a Puma (also known in North America as a Cougar or Mountain lion.) Pumas can have grey to almost black coats (although very rare), and could then be confused with a Panther, under normal sighting conditions. The Puma is a native to North and South America and even Canada from the far southern mountains of Peru and the Andes deserts, right up through California to the far northern snow ranges of the Rockies and into Canada. For more info look at my Puma Page

A theory is now widely held by some zoologists, that there may even be some sort of new hybrid cat at large, a result of a Panther and Puma mating (as they come from opposite continents, this is uncharted waters.) Certainly, Pumas and Panthers are seen in the same areas right throughout the country. We also know from eyewitness accounts, that cubs and young cats are emerging, so some breeding either within or across the two species is occurring throughout the country. We have also though had good sightings by "expert" witnesses who are certain of the breed of cat they saw be it a Panther or Puma. One American lorry driver is adamant that the animal he saw at close quarters was NOT a Puma as he was used to them in the States but looked like a Panther he saw in the zoo.

 

The more rare sightings in our area, and elsewhere involve a description that matches a Lynx. This is of a medium dog-sized cat with thick dark brown coat, heavily furred feet, and pointed tufts on its ears but virtually no tail. Again, the Lynx is a native of North America, and North East Europe and (in the States) shares its territory with the Puma.

A Lynx is in captivity at London zoo having been caught in a garden of a North London suberb, (Cricklewood / Golders Green) in 2001 but no one knows where it came from!!

Unfortunately, the media were misinformed and made mistakes reporting sightings in the past, confusing Panthers with Pumas, Lynx with Pumas and so on, making it even more bewildering to the lay person, this is now slowly changing.

Many people not in the know, suggest surviving the British climate is too difficult for big cats. This is not so, as Pumas and Lynx roam Americas and Canada from the mountain deserts in the south, to the snowy Yukon and Rocky Mountains. The Panther is also at ease in all temperatures and can happily withstand the British weather, with an adaptable thick coat especially with all the disused isolated barns now around the countryside. In fact, shortage of water is the big cat's main enemy, something that does not pose a problem over here!

As far as fitting into the food chain, both the Puma and Panther are the most adaptable of all the big cats, with the most varied of diets imaginable. In their native continents, they are known to eat anything available, including fruit, carrion, fish, small and large rodents, rabbits, bird's etc right up to large fully grown deer. The British countryside with its abundance of rabbits, muncjac deer (very common small deer but seldom seen) and of course, a renewable source of pheasants! Not to mention foxes, badgers, pigeons and other birds. The British countryside suddenly becomes far more attractive then the frozen wastes or barren deserts that they have already conquered so easily. There is also an absence of hunters armed with rifles on bounty hunts, as in America. Its is reckoned by zoologists that both these cats require two rabbits or similar a day to survive, hardly a flock of sheep!

They are now increasingly seen right into the centre of the major towns and cities of the UK (as occurs in America and Africa and Asia) following the urban foxes and muncjak deer in along railways and canal banks. They then feed on domestic cats, foxes, deer and often raid back gardens taking food left for the foxes and raiding rubbish bins. The numerous parks in Leicester have often had sightings of Panthers at night.

Their other great asset is their legendary stealth and ability to hunt in total darkness. They are both masters of surprise, and with the ability to bound up to 10 metres in one stride, they can hunt with ease, succeeding over even the crafty British fox. It is no coincidence that the Panther has long been associated with magic and power, hence the Romans and other persons of standing owning their own as pets, and their constant use on TV to promote an air of mystery to a programme or documentary. In fact, the Leopard is the only big cat in Africa, that is thriving and increasing in numbers (Thought to be up to 2 million). But many native tribes have never even seen one, let alone witnessed one in action! Lending further credence to their revered status.

There is even the same situation with introduced big cats in Australia and New Zealand now, and although the native Aborigines (Australia) claim to have seen them. They have failed to track them, saying on one report that the Panther just vanished into the undergrowth as if by magic. There was also a recent photo taken of a Panther in New Zealand by British tourists

As far as being a danger to humans, only in remote North America, have people been attacked by Pumas, and they will generally avoid conflict. The same is true of Leopards. With regards to livestock, we are unsure. This is because Pumas and Panthers will take sheep and cattle in their native lands if injured, or the food chain collapses but we are into unknown territory here, with the more abundant food chain available, and the livestock over here being less isolated than in their native wild (Livestock fenced in groups over here). Certainly, apart from the remoter parts of the country, we have only witnessed the odd one or two livestock kills that look possibly like that of a big cat (most turn out to be dogs), although this took a sinister turn for a short period back in Nov 98 (see sheep kills page)

From eye witness accounts, we know that Muncjac deer, foxes, badgers, rabbits, pigeons and pheasants are all on the menu, as well as more alarmingly, domestic cats, a domestic rabbit taken from its hutch, (and if confronted ) domestic dogs. Bearing in mind that Pumas compete with brown bears. And Leopards, with all manners of other African predators, the British countryside is of little threat. In fact humans are only seen as an intriguing co existence. If you are fortunate enough to sight a big cat, it will almost certainly be aware of your presence and will not run away scared, as would a fox etc. If it feels threatened, e.g. by a large group, then you will not see it! This is why a lot of sightings are by drivers, who often get a good close view of the cat.

Many people are amazed that the cat walks off and sits down 30 yards or so away and looks back at them!

 

There is also now a growing band of night hunters out "fox lamping" who have encountered these cats countrywide. Many are very apprehensive to now go out at night on their previous pastime. It is widely believed that the fox calls (rabbit distress) used, attract the cats in to the lights, but for all the bluster before, most drop their guns and run in terror when confronted by a Panther in the dark!! We even know of cases in Leics where urgent police support has been requested!!

 

WHAT TO DO

IF YOU CONFRONT A BIG CAT

 

Should you be fortunate (or unfortunate) to come face to face with a Big Cat, the following advice is widely followed in America and Africa/Asia

  1. If walking a dog, get it on a lead immediately. There have been a few documented cases in the Midlands of dogs attacking Cats, and the dog always comes off worse if they survive, even a West Midlands Rotweiller! A Panther or Puma will only attack if threatened, and will keep away from you if you have the dog close at hand .
  2. As with most aggressive animals, (dogs included!) don't turn your back and run off. More easily said than done, but proven advice. Even Tigers do not like to attack head on, in fact some Asian forestry workers wear painted faces on the back of their heads for this very reason, to prevent a surprise rear attack. The advice is to slowly back away, keeping a face on view of the cat at all times until you are well away from the animal, then you can run and scream! Running can trigger the natural attack instinct of the cat
  3. If you are unfortunate enough to get attacked, then again from the Stateside experience the advice is to make yourself as large as possible. Any other persons in the group should move in close together, and get all children up close, and try to stop them screaming. Try to pick up a stick or other large object in order to make your profile larger. As predators, Big Cats are well aware of the danger to their life if they should take an injury, and will tend to avoid such situations, it will also be a great shock as they do not perceive a "prey" to fight back, and will back off in confusion. Also make loads of noise if possible, and if you have a whistle, use it, again the surprise element will throw off an attack and the animal will hopefully back off . If all else fails and the cat strikes, try to avoid turning away and be prepared to use that stick, remember they donít just have sharp teeth, the paws are just as lethal!
  4. If you are involved in "lamping" foxes at night, be particularly vigilant as there have been a very high percentage of night sightings by persons engaged in such pastimes. From our reports, the individuals involved tend to panic (despite all the bluff before hand) and drop their guns in terror. I suppose having a powerful predator like a Panther suddenly appear 10 feet away out of the pitch black is a bit unnerving, even when armed. It seems that the fox call used attracts the cats! If you hear the classic "wood saw" sound of the Leopards cough, then its wise to leave the area ASAP as that is a warning to you to stay a way
  5. Finally, if you do go out walking in an area of recent reports, keep your eyes open for unusual activity, sheep in a group, or local wildlife missing or distressed (Blackbirds and Magpies give off the same warnings as to a domestic cat), and again listen for the classic sounds. If its a Puma, you may hear the bird like chirp of the female to her young, or the aggressive "wildcat" type sound that is apparently very loud and unnerving in a wood. Think about taking a camera with you, as the chances are that you will be more upset that you didnít get a photo, should the chance arise, and it is a very, very rare opportunity

 

OTHER AREAS OF BIG CAT ACTIVITY

 

 Although we tend to concentrate on sightings within the Rutland and Leics area and its borders, we do like to keep in touch with other areas of the country. From what we know, the other areas for current big cat activity are:

The West Midlands to the North East of Birmingham up to Tamworth, and from the N.E.C to Coventry. And Hereford and Worcestershire to the West around the Malvern hills. And across to Ludlow in Shropshire where cubs were seen in summer 98

Derbyshire and Notts, around Ilkeston and Ripley.

Lincolnshire, on the Wolds around Horncastle and West across to Gainsborough and the edge of Lincoln. and also south of Lincoln around Bourne. And across to Newark

Cambridgeshire, around Huntingdon, Peterborough and Northants around Oundle and across to Kettering. Also Buckinghamshire has an active population including in and around Milton Keynes.

East Anglia from East of Norwich right across Suffolk and into the whole of Essex, in fact Panthers have been witnessed by Police patrols right next to the busy London orbital M25 and M11 junction!

"The Essex Big Cat Research" group are logging sightings of up to 12 sightings a month down there.

Hertfordshire also has active big cats especially around Hoddesdon, just north of London and across to Hatfield and South Mimms and even on the "Ridgeway" into the Enfield suburbs of London

Surrey around Guildford has "the Surrey Puma" which seems to get down to Sussex and we often here of reports across from Kent

Gloucestershire has numerous big cats especially around the Forest of Dean and Welsh borders into Monmouthshire. Another group is tracking these cats around there.

Wales has its own Big Cats, hot spots are in Mid Wales and across to the West Coast.

Durham and the Northeast has had a hotspot for big cats for some years and has involved the local police and been covered on national TV. And the Yorkshire Moors around Whitby and Scarborough have regular sightings of Big cats.

Lancashire around the Bolton Moors gets lots of sightings of Pumas and Panthers

Scotland has got various sighting hot spots from Aberdeen to the borders, the most publicised area being Falkirk between Glasgow and Edinburgh. And up in the highlands around Inverness and even Loch Ness!!. Also in Dumfies and Galloway areas.

 

As for other countries:

We know that Northern Ireland and The Republic have Big Cat sightings on a regular basis (the RUC even shot dead a Lynx there a few years ago),

Also the eastern states of the USA are experiencing the same phenomena as ourselves, in areas where Pumas last lived wild 300 yrs ago! And there have never been native Panthers (of the black Leopard variety).

Australia a continent devoid of native big cats also has had its own problem, for over 50 yrs, with Panthers, Pumas being regularly seen and followed by ranchers, government rangers and even Aborigine's, who have without success tried to track them. In fact, they now call them the "phantoms" due to their ability to just disappear into the bush! The official line is as over here, "they do not exist", However, following pressure form groups, the government has now come clean and released a paper showing that they have been investigating and carrying out risk assessment for the last 30 years or more. In fact, it now appears likely that American Gold prospectors released pet cougars in the 1870'

New Zealand also gets reports of Panther like cats including a video taken by British tourists in 2000 of a Panther like big cat

France has its share of big cat hunts and a recent one in the Central Massive nera Clermondt Ferrand yielded some good video footage by a local filmmaker, but despite the efforts of the Gendarmes and army including air support. The animal slipped away and after a month or so of encounters, the operation was stood down

 

HOW TO CONTACT OURSELVES AND OTHER SITE LINKS

 

Contacting us

 

If you wish to pass on any comments or wish to know more about our group (we do not have any subscriptions or raise monies), or have any sightings that may be of interest, please feel free to contact us.

To email us, contact

 

The Rutland Mercury, and Rutland Times, Harborough Mail, Coalville Times, Melton Times as well as the Leicester Mercury regularly feature updates on Big Cat sightings and occasionally, Rutland Radio, Carlton Central and BBC East Midlands TV feature news stories on the cats.

Hyperlink Index to other pages on this site

 

Click here for the 2001 sightings page

Click here for the 2002 sightings page

 

Visitors page for overseas information on our location

 

Map and log of sightings from the 90's up to end of 2000

 

The Ketton paw print

 

The1998 sheep kill photos

 

Puma photos page

 

Leics Mercury and Yorkshire post articles including the "Confessions" (Jan 2000)

 

BBC2 Documentary on the Midlands Big Cats 27-01-2000

Midlands Report

 

 

Other links to UK Big Cat sites.

Mystery Cat Web Sites.

 

If you want to know about the Big Cat scene in Scotland and elsewhere, visit the website of

 

Mystery cats of Scotland

 

 

Gerry's Farshores.

A lot of UK Big Cat material here. Also archives of many cryptozoological subjects. Well worth a visit.

Neil Arnolds Beast of Bluebell Hill.

Neil Arnold is Kent's only Big Cat researcher. He frequently appears on local television and radio, and in the local press. He is also a regular contributor to the Devon-based cryptozoological magazine Animals and Men.

Norfolks Operation Big Cat.

Big cat sightings and evidence, especially in the English county of Norfolk.

The British Big Cat Society.

A network of independent people who are located throughout the UK and who actively seek evidence of Big Cats.

David Walkers Big Cats in the U.K.

"Big Cats" and "Lesser Cats" at large in mainland Britain.

Craig Thompsons Wilderness Cat Project.

The Wilderness Cat Project, were set up to research the sightings of exotic Cats such as Panther, Puma and Lynx around Dartmoor, and remain as an independent group offering free advice, and education on the subject of Cats in Devon.

Dr. Karl Shukers Mystery Cats of the World: From Blue Tigers to Exmoor Beasts.

Alien Big Cats.

This website came into being because of the onward going researches of Paul Crowther and Chris Moiser.

The beast of Gloucestershire.

Scottish Big Cats.

Scottish Big Cats is a collaborative effort between big cat researchers in Scotland and throughout the world.

Dick Raynors 'Pumas and other big cats near Loch Ness.

Clive Mouldings Beastwatch.

Steve Lees Big Cats in the UK

UK Big Cats by Ian Wickison.

Mystery Big Cat Sites From Overseas.

MARCA by Sharon West.

MARCA is the focus for a group of people who are interested in proving the existence of at least two species of big cats and Thylacines are roaming the mainland of Australia. The group consists of approximately 60 people from all states of Australia and a few interested individuals overseas.

UK Cryptozoology Sites.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) which was founded in 1992, is a non-profit-making organisation studying various Fortean, Zoological and cryptozoological phenomena across the world.

 

 

 

OTHER SITE LINKS.

 

A very good site on all manner of Big Cat subjects with links, and also linked to ours.

BIG CATS

 

 

 

 

Site for Drayton Manor Theme Park and Zoo giving price and directions. A good Zoo for seeing a pair of very well fed and contented Panthers, as well as a great theme park with wicked rides to boot! The zoo works very closely with us and the Zoo manager and Panther expert has even seen wild Pumas and Panthers near East Midlands airport!

The Theme Park and Zoo is near Tamworth, Warwickshire.

DRAYTON MANOR ZOO

 

Rutland on line service. Comprehensive info site with links on everything you need to know about England's oldest and smallest county.

 

 

 

 

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