BIG CATS OF BRITAIN … THE SIGHTINGS

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A flurry of sightings of big cats emerged after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 made it illegal to keep untamed pets. Many owners of exotic cats such as pumas or lynx simply freed their untamed pets into the countryside. Here is a round up sightings:

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Many believe released lynx and panther are roaming the British countryside
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Many believe released lynx and panther are roaming the British countryside
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Derbyshire 2007

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A large black cat was spotted walking along a dry stone wall that was 3ft high. From working out how large the stones were it was estimated the cat was at least 18 inches high and 3ft long excluding the tail.

It was believed to be a young black leopard.

Experts said it was too large to be a domestic cat but could be a hybrid mix.

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A cat walks along a wall in Derbyshire (Big Cat Monitors)

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Semi-retired businessman Peter Jackson told the Manchester Evening News that he had spotted the ‘mountain lion’ type creature in the back garden of his Longnor Road home.

The 54-year-old was woken by the barking of his pet dog on January 16 and spotted what he described as a ‘large black cat’.

Police later issued a warning saying that anyone seeing it should not approach it. Jean Bruckshaw, 80, of Grendale Avenue, contacted us to say she had seen the cat the day before Mr Jackson.

She said: “At the time I was washing the dishes and looked out of the back window and saw a large black cat prowling in a neighbour’s garden. “

It had a big tail similar to a fox but not a brushy one, and I can say I have never seen such a huge cat before. “My neighbour also said that she had seen it.” Mrs Bruckshaw said she thought the cat made its escape onto a railway embankment behind her street.

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Beast of Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, 2009

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The wildcat dubbed the Beast of Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk was spotted near the Queen’s Sandringham home.

Experts claim it was a Scottish wildcat, which has been known to attack humans with their razor-sharp claws, or a lynx.

Although others said it looked like a domestic tabby.

This lynx like cat was spotted near the Queen’s Sandringham estate

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Beast of Banff 2007

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A big black panther-like animal has been seen only yards from the edge of Banff.

It was spotted on the prowl in broad daylight above the Links, terrifying a holiday visitor who was out for an afternoon stroll.

And at least one nearby resident has also seen a big cat at close hand.

The creature is described as being five feet long and three feet high. It walked across the path of the man who was staying at the Banff Springs Hotel over the holiday period as he was out for a walk near the hotel on Hogmanay according to the Banffshire Journal.

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Helensburgh, Argyle 2009

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An off-duty Ministry of Defence police dog handler took a video after spotting a panther-sized big cat.

Pc Chris Swallow told the BBC was helping a friend with their garden in Helensburgh, Argyll, when he spotted the black creature on a nearby railway line.

The officer, who is stationed at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, said the cat was as big as a Labrador dog.

Big cats have been reported in the area in the past, with several sightings of the so-called Coulport Cougar.

“I’ve heard stories about creatures like this moving about the countryside, but never really believed them before,” he said.

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Newtown Crossroads, Herefordshire 2009

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A large black cat was filmed prowling across fields in rural Herefordshire in December 2009;

Steve Hall from Hereford contacted the Hereford Times when he managed to to capture video footage of a large black cat resembling a panther crossing farmland near Newtown Crossroads.

Steve was out with his friend Dave Went walking their dogs when they spotted the beast.

“It was just walking across the hedge and then it saw us and sat in the hedge a bit watching.” Steve said.

“I thought I saw one a few years ago but I wasn’t too sure as it was dark, but this footage proves they are local. It was far too big to be a domestic cat.”

There have been numerous sightings of big cats stalking the Herefordshire countryside, but not for many years.

“I go out all the time in the countryside and know the difference between a cat and a dog,” Mr Hall told the Times.

“This was definitely a big cat.”

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CLICK TO VIEW BLACK LEOPARD

CAUGHT ON FILM IN SHROUD

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A ten-minute film shot by a member of the public shows a black beast prowling through a field near Stroud, Glos.

Big cat expert Frank Tunbridge, 65, from Gloucestershire, who has been hunting predators for years, said: “I think this footage is pretty much conclusive.

It is the best footage of a big cat ever filmed in the UK – showing what we believe is a slim, young looking black leopard.”

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BIG Cat Filmed near Faslane Naval Base Scotland

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Described as possibly ‘one of the best pieces of footage of a big cat in the UK’ after a military policeman caught pictures on his phone.

PC Chris Swallow, who is based at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, took pictures and video using his mobile phone after spotting the animal.

He initially believed he was looking at a Labrador crossing railway tracks from a friend’s garden in the Churchill Estate in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire.

But he decided to investigate closer and said he was “stunned” by what he saw.

“The animal wasn’t moving the way I expected a dog to. It was then I realised that what I was seeing was a big cat,” said PC Swallow, who is a trained dog handler.

“I ran to my car to grab my mobile phone for a picture. I stood on the nearby rail bridge in Winston Road and got a still photo and a couple of minutes of footage of the animal moving up the railway line.

“It was remarkable. I’ve heard stories about creatures like this moving about the countryside but never really believed them before. Looking back at the video I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s a big cat.”

Big Cats in Britain, a group that investigates animals roaming the countryside, has examined PC Swallow’s photographs, which were taken on June 30. It concluded the animal is “certainly not a domestic cat.”

Shaun Stevens, a researcher for the group, said: “I have a working theory that some of these cats may be a hybrid species or possibly a new species of cat.

“Knowing that the width of the rail tracks in Chris’s video is four feet, eight-and-a-half inches, the animal photographed by him is clearly in excess of four feet.

“Initial first impressions are very exciting, as I think this could be one of the best pieces of footage of a big cat in the UK.”

He said the area appears to be a “favourite haunt” of big cats, with about 30 reported sightings of the animals there each year.

There were several reports in 2004 of a large tan-coloured creature, dubbed the ‘Coulport Cougar’, in the woods and hills around nearby Loch Long.

John Belshaw, HM Naval Base Clyde’s pest control officer, has been contacted by police about previous sightings. He said: “I have had a look at Chris’s footage and have to say that I do not believe it is a domestic cat or a dog.

“At one point in the video it seems to walk on the railway line and a dog simply wouldn’t have had the balance to do this. You can tell from the size of the track that it is much larger than a house cat.”

The existence of big cats in the UK has been attributed to the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in the 1970s, which meant they could no longer legally be kept as pets.

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