Panther sightings in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

For a period of about two years between 2005 and 2007 numerous sightings of what was claimed to be a panther were reported around the Staffordshire Moorlands. Where this creature came from and where it disappeared to is as much of a mystery as the sightings themselves.

If it was not for Doug Pickford who at that time was the editor of the local paper the Leek Post and Times, and who saw the creature on one occasion, and who had all the sightings printed in the paper, the sightings would have no doubt been forgotten about over time.

At the time I collected all the newspaper cuttings of the sightings as they appeared, and in no particular order I have reproduced them on this website so they will not be forgotten about.

FARMER CLAIMS HE SHOT PANTHER. published may 4th 2005.

The mysterious Moorlands panther may have been shot. The Leek Post has been told by a reliable source that a Staffordshire Moorlands farmer shot the beast a while ago. It is understood that a number of the farmer’s sheep had been savaged. The hill-country farmer, who lives in the Peak district area of the Staffordshire Moorlands, kept watch on his fields and shot the panther when it was attacking some more of his flock.

The animal is, it is understood, now buried on the farm, but the farmer will not make any comment whatsoever.

Meanwhile, a Leek man has told the Leek Post he thinks the panther has mated with a puma. He said this week that he had seen a panther/puma on at least 5 occassions in the Ipstones area and his enquiries showed it was possible for the two animals to mate and produce offspring.

He said this week: “It was definitely not a pure-bred animal, it was a cross between, I think, a panther and a puma.”

Recently we reported that Gratton farmer Derrick Thompson claims to have photographic evidence of the animal’s paw prints and he took pictures of markings in the snow.

Mr Thompson said: “The first time I saw it was over six years ago. I didn’t think it was a panther but it was a cat of some sort. It was in an eight or nine acre field and it ran right across the field. I got the binoculars to get a better look but I couldn’t do it quickly enough. I saw it. I know it existed. I didn’t know what to think. Eighteen years ago, when I lived a mile up the road, I thought the idea of a big cat was ridiculous.”

” I know now, in fact I am certain, there is something there. You have got to believe what you see.” Mr Thompson believes the footprints he photographed at his farm, while he is not certain they are a panther’s, are definitely not from a dog or a fox.

He discovered the footprints starting from his garden in Holly Oak farm, Chapel lane, Gratton, which then went across two fields before stopping at a gate.

Twelve months ago, at about the same time as Mr Thompson spotted the footprints, Diane Jarnell was travelling with her husband from Rudyard towards her Biddulph Moor home when she spotted what she believes was the panther.

The 50 year old said: “I looked across the meadow and there were sheep close to the road, but on the other side of the field there was something that definitely looked like a panther. I was absolutely stunned by what I had seen.”

A spokesman for the National Farmer’s Union West Midlands said: ” We do get the odd call about this, but it is always difficult to substantiate what people have seen.”

Danny Bamping, of the British Big Cat Society, said: “We have conclusive proof that they exist. We have had lots of sightings in Staffordshire – has been a hot spot for years.”

PANTHER SIZE OF ALSATION  published 26th October 2005

A local businessman has claimed to have had a five minute encounter with what he believes was the Moorlands panther.

Brian Spencer, who runs Paradise Nurseries, says that he spotted the panther last tuesday, in a field at Winothdale.

Mr Spencer said: “It was about half seven or eight at night, and I heard what was a most unusual noise.

” I went and got my torch and shone it on the panther for a good five minutes, it was the size of an alsation. I’m going to carry my camera around with me from now on.”

Brian also claims that he has previously seen it at the same place back in February. He added: “I’ve been seeing this thing on and off for quite a few years. I’ve seen big footprints in the snow before too, ones that are much bigger than those of any dog.

” I spend quite a lot of time in Wales and I’ve seen them a few times around there too.”

Mr Spencer has a message to sceptics of the panthers existence.

“I’ve seen it, I know that its real and I know that they are here.I think there are actually more about than people realise.”

PANTHER SEEN AGAIN published 2006-2007

There have been two more sightings of the Moorlands panther this week.

Accupuncturist Karen Glancey, of Anroach farm, Quarnford, spotted the creature in clear daylight at approximately 1pm in the Quarnford area on tuesday last week.

She said: “At first I thought it was one of our black Labradors which had escaped on to the field, but then realised it was definitely a big cat. “You hear the stories and are bit sceptical, but this was definitely a genuine sighting.”

The elusive creature, which has yet to be caught on camera, appeared to be heading towards Adder’s Green farm before disappearing into the undergrowth.

Another reader, who did not want to be named, saw the panther on the junction of Old Leek road and Macclesfield road near to Leek. The man described the animal as taller than a large dog but with a much longer body and tail stretching half its length again.

He said: “It came out of the fields and loped across the road.” He is convinced it was a black panther and said: “There is absolutely no doubt about it.”

MARKSMEN OUT TO CATCH PANTHERS published 2006-2007

Sharpshooters are undertaking night-time hunting expeditions in an attempt to wipe out one of the Moorlands black panthers. The Leek Post understands that a number of marksmen have spotted big cats at different locations but they have been too far away to aim at.

There have been many reported sightings of black panthers over the years in areas that include Gratton, Rushton, the Black Brook Reserve, the Roaches, Quarnford, Blackshaw Moor, Manifold valley and Onecote.

Wildlife experts say the animals could be offspring of beasts released by owners after the introduction of new laws in 1976 governing wild and dangerous animals. Many owners said they let their animals loose to avoid having them put down.

National newspapers and television companies are willing to pay top money if they are given exclusive pictures of a dead panther or puma.

If one of the big cats is stuffed by a taxidermist it would be a great attraction for a pub or a local museum.

Danny Bamping, of the British Big Cats Society, said: “The number of sightings in Staffordshire has remained pretty stable, but it seems the credibility of sightings has improved.

“The interesting thing in Staffordshire is, it tends to be sightings of a brown cat, like a puma or lynx, which we hear about. In other parts of the country, the sightings tend to be of black cats.”

SHOOTING PANTHER IS ILLEGAL SAYS PC published 2006-2007

A police officer has warned sharpshooters taking part in hunting expeditions in search of the Moorlands panther they would be breaking the law if they killed the beast.

PC Paul Flowers, who is based at Waterhouses Police Station, said any marksman who shoots the notorious Moorlands panther would be breaking international law and would also run the risk of losing his firearms certificate.

The Leek Post last month revealed a number of marksmen have spotted big cats at different locations in the Moorlands and are taking part in regular night time hunting expeditions in a bid to wipe out the panther.

PC Flowers said: “These cats are protected by international legislation and shooting them could get these marksmen into big, big trouble. To my knowledge, there is no one in Staffordshire allowed to shoot big cats.

“These people are running a real risk of losing their firearms certificates.” He added: ” I don’t want to know who these people are, but they are not authorised to shoot anything other than what is on their firearms certificate.”

NEW SIGHTING OF PANTHER published 2006-2007

A motorist claims he has seen one of the Staffordshire Moorlands black panthers in Thorncliffe.

The man was driving up Anker lane towards Morridge when he spotted what he thought was,” a very large black cat” in a field to his right. Later, the driver, who does not want to be identified, called in at the Leek Post offices and described what he saw.

He said: “It was the size of a collie dog. It was far bigger than a domestic cat, but it was definitely feline. It walked like a cat and it was slinky just like a cat.”

He said after a few minutes it ran to a nearby hedge and disappeared.

A Moorlands police officer has warned marksmen taking part in night-time operations in an attempt to shoot the sheep killing panther they would be breaking the law if they killed the beast. PC Paul Flowers, who is based at Waterhouses Police Station, said marksmen who shot one of the panthers would be breaking international law and would also run the risk of losing their firearms certificate.

The Leek Post last month revealed a number of people have spotted a big cats at different Moorland locations.

Marksmen are now assisting farmers by watching flocks of sheep overnight and hoping to kill the panther as it attacks farm animals. PC Flowers said: “These cats are protected by international legislation and shooting them could get these marksmen into big, big trouble. To my knowledge there is no one in Staffordshire allowed to shoot big cats. These people are running a real risk of losing their firearms certificates.”

EVIDENCE OF PANTHERS IS PILING UP published 2006-2007

A dark shadow continues to grow across the mist swept hills of the Staffordshire Moorlands. Eerie whispers have travelled from village to town of mysterious beasts stalking the land.

In their wake, mangled sheep carcasses, remains of foxes and crunched up bones have been found across the picturesque Moorlands. And tales of a “big cat” continue to grow. For several years, stories have been appearing in the Leek Post regarding a mysterious large black cat. And the mystery surrounding the Moorlands panthers has intensified somewhat in recent weeks. In December, 2003, we reported a mysterious attack on farm stock at Ford, Onecote and Grindon. At Ford, it was discovered that some of the animal carcasses had been gnawed down to the bone.

In March, 2004, alone, there were five sightings of a large black animal lurking in the area, and yet another gruesome discovery. A sheep was found at Stoney Cliffe farm with one of its front legs ripped off, while a resident in Stanley claimed to have evidence of two big cats roaming the area.

In 2004 the plot thickened as the badly torn remains of a sheep were found in Rushton. April, 2005, saw the story develop as a farmer claimed the illusive panther was responsible for a number of his sheep going missing at his farm. And last May, the Leek Post learnt from a reliable source that a farmer in the Peak District National Park area of the Staffordshire Moorlands had shot a panther after mounting losses of his sheep. It was also claimed by another reader that the panther had reportedly been seen accompanied by a puma.

Last week, a motorist claimed to have spotted one of the black panthers at Thorncliffe. One theory behind the mystery black cats seen across the country – one was seen last week on Bournemouth beach – is that they were released into the wild in the mid 1970s.

As reported in the Leek Post last April, it was claimed that panthers, pumas and lynxes were loosed in 1976, when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act came into force. The legislation was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill in resonse to public concern about keeping dangerous pets. It meant that lovers of exotic animals had to apply to the local authority for a special licence.

Mr Maiden, of Cradley Heath, Dudley, West Midlands, claimed on a BBC regional news programme to have let a panther out on the Pennines in the 1970s, because he did not want it put down.

Earlier this month, the Leek Post reported that sharpshooters were undertaking night-time operations in an attempt to kill one of the Moorlands black panthers attacking sheep.

Police have warned the public that they would be breaking the law if they killed the beast willy nilly. But farmers say they have a legal right to shoot any predator attacking livestock on their farms.

PANTHER CUB SPOTTED IN MOORLAND HILLS  published in 2006-2007

A new sighting has provided evidence that the Staffordshire Moorlands panthers could be breeding. Hulme End resident Roger Canon and his wife were returning home from a day’s shopping in Leek last week when they saw a black animal, bigger than a cat, but smaller than a full grown panther. And this has prompted them to suggest it could have been a panther cub.

Roger said: “We decided to take the country road home so we went by the Mermaid pub across to Warslow by Eleven Lane Ends, midway across the road I clearly saw an animal.

“It was jet black with a long flowing tail. It was much bigger than a cat, but nowhere as big as other sightings. It was the size of a possible cub. I now wonder if the stories of the panther in the Moorlands are true and they are breeding.

“We were about 60 yards away from the animal. When it heard the car it just disappeared. I had no time to get out the camera. You first think that it is a cat, but the size and the fact there are no houses in the area makes me think it is a cub.”

The sighting comes shortly after another person reported a sighting in Ankers Lane, thorncliffe, which is in the same area.

WE’VE SEEN IT FOUR TIMES published 2006-2007

The Moorlands panther has been spotted in Leek – at the same place a sighting was recorded two years ago.

Linda Law, of Selbourne Road, Leek, claimed she and four of her children encountered what they believed to be the Moorlands panther on four separate occasions. And again the sighting of a panther cub was mentioned, adding to the notion that the panther could be breeding.

The Leek Post has previously reported that the late Danny Brough of Junction Road saw the panther on two occasions on the Cattle market ground.

The new sightings follow on from a story in the Leek Post last week where Hulme End resident Roger Cannon and his wife spotted what they believed to be a panther cub while returning from a day’s shopping in Leek. Mother Linda said: “My children and I have seen the panther now on four occasions. Everywhere we’ve been to, about a week later a sighting at the same place appears in the paper.”

Of the four sightings, Linda claims that two have taken place at the Leek Cattle Market, including the sighting of a panther cub.

Linda said: ” My children had been playing at the fields down by the cattle market and they came back and said they had spotted what they thought was a young cub. They’ve also seen another one down there too, much bigger than a cat.”

A further sighting came when her children were playing on their bikes by the River Churnet. She said: “They all came running home frightened to death with what they had seen.”

And lastly, Mrs Law herself was left shaken after a mysterious incident at Ballington Woods. “I heard this tremendous growl come from some bushes and I called the police about it. People might think I am stupid but I know I am not and I know what I heard.”

PANTHER SPOTTED NEAR POPULAR PUB  published 2006-2007

There have been two reported sightings of the Moorlands panther in the fields on Abbey Green Lane. Two youths spotted the panther outside the Abbey Green Inn at 7pm on Saturday night. Another sighting of the panther was reported at the same site last week.

Darral Sargeant, Landlord of the Abbey Inn, said: “Its very strange this has happened now because only last week we were debating the panthers existence. You hear about it but you’re not sure if its a myth or truth.”

“A regular of mine said he’d seen it over by the woods a few weeks ago. It would’t surprise me, as it has easy access to water in there. I’d love to be able to say I’d seen it myself.”

And this week yet more sightings of the elusive black panther have been reported as the mystery surrounding the beast grows. A shocked couple claim to have seen the panther kill a hare in front of their eyes. The pair, who have asked to remain nameless, say they saw the beast as they walked along the River Dove at Dovedale on August 10th.

They watched in amazement as the beast killed a hare on the hillside before dragging its prize into bushes. A day later, guests at the Pikehorse Caravan Park in Thorpe saw an animal with a similar description jumping among rocks at Thorpe Cloud. Have you seen the elusive panther in recent weeks? If so, contact the Leek Post on 01538-399599.

PANTHER SIGHTING published on 10th November 2005

The Moorlands panther has been spotted again – this time on Morridge Top. The panther was seen running across the road in front of a lorry by a delivery driver at 4pm on Monday afternoon.

Wayne Buckingham, a driver for J and M Bathroom Supplies in Buxton, said: “I definitely saw it. It ran straight across the road in front of the van before stopping in a bush.

“I saw its tail sticking out and it stayed there for a few seconds before running off. It must have been a panther because it was to big to be a cat and too fast to be a dog.”

MYSTERY SURROUNDS PANTHER  published on 27th September 2006

The mysterious panther that roamed the Staffordshire Moorlands may have died, according to some experts. With no reports of sightings of the elusive animal throughout the area this summer, it is feared the animal has died either from natural causes or at the hands of a hunter.

It may also be that the panther – which often walks fifty miles in a day – has moved to a fresh area. Last year, sharpshooters were undertaking night – time hunting expeditions in an attempt to wipe out the animal. The Leek Post understands that a number of marksmen spotted a big cat at different locations but they were to far away to be able to aim.

There have been many reported sightings of black panthers over the years, in areas that include Gratton, Rushton, the Black Brook Reserve, The Roaches, Quarnford, Blackshaw Moor, Manifold Valley and Onecote. But this summer there has not been any.

A Pantherwatch spokesman  – an organisation which attempts to follow up reported sightings of the creatures throughout the UK – said the fact that the animal had not been seen in the Moorlands this summer suggests it was either dead or had moved away.

The spokesman said: “It is not unusual for these creatures to walk up to fifty or more miles in a day, so this one could have moved on, or perhaps it has died.”

Wildlife experts say the animals could be offspring of beasts released by owners after the introduction of new laws in 1976, governing wild and dangerous animals. Many owners said they let their animals loose to avoid having them put down. The British Big Cat Society has reported a dramatic increase in big cat sightings in recent years.

BOBBIES SPOT THE MOORLANDS PANTHER  published 11th April 2007

Two police officers claim to have spotted the elusive Moorlands panther, it has been revealed. Although one sighting was last year, it has just come to the attention of researchers who are trying to track down the animal. It occurred at wetley Rocks when an on – duty officer saw what he believed to be a panther or something similar in size run across the main road.

It happened about 4.30am when he caught the cat in his main beam, and it appeared to glide across the road before jumping a wall and going into a field. A colleague of the policeman told Dave Sadler association co-ordinator for local group Unknown Phenomena Investigation (UPIA), that the officer was “absolutely adamant” about what he saw but did not call it in over his radio as he at first could not believe what he had seen and thought he would be laughed at. Mr Sadler commented: “Interestingly this is relatively close, as in a few miles, to the Leek Cattle market sightings.” He also revealed that another policeman saw what he thought was the Moorlands panther close to Alton Towers. A special constable observed what he thought was a big cat similar to a panther on the edge of the Alton Towers Estate. He was off duty at the time and did not report it as he did not think he would be believed. Mr Sadler added: “I won’t disclose their details until I have obtained their permission but they are very certain about what they saw and have no doubts at all.”

PARTLY EATEN FOAL SPARKS FEARS OF PANTHER ATTACK  published 22nd August 2007

The death of a four month old foal has raised suspicions the Moorlands panther has struck again. The RSPCA is currently investigating an incident reported on Monday in the Thorncliffe area. The animal charity confirmed it was looking into an incident in which the animal suffered severe injuries.

The RSPCA declined to give any further details saying officers were looking into the matter further. They also said photographs of the animal were “too horrendous” to release.

Police Inspector Mark Rigby said: “A call came into us regarding a foal found dead by its owner in a field in the Thorncliffe area. PC Milward of Waterhouses Police attended the scene. A four month old colt was found dead and it had been partly eaten. The cause of death of the foal has not yet been determined. The RSPCA have some theories but as yet there are no conclusive answers. This is an isolated incident and we can confirm there have been no reports of sightings of any large unidentifiable animals.”

Three years ago, the Leek Post reported incidents which occurred on Margaret Alldred’s in nearby Blackshaw Moor. In October 2004, Mrs Alldred spoke of finding one of her sheep with its leg ripped off.

Police are appealing for any witnesses to the recent incident. Anyone with information can contact PC Milward on 08453302010. Have you seen what you believe could be the Moorlands panther? Or have any of your animals suffered any inexplicable injuries? If so get in touch with the Leek Post and Times. Call the news-desk on 01538 399599.

MOORS PANTHER PLAYS CAT AND MOUSE GAME  published 7th April 2004

Pantherwatch has gripped the Moorlands in recent weeks. Over the years, several possible sightings of a panther have been reported, but the most recent spate started last year. In December a number of attacks on farm stock in Ford, Onecote, Grindon and Quarnford left farmers convinced a big cat is out there on the moors. Since then, a panther or big cat has been spotted in the Morridge area near the Mermaid Inn, there was another sighting near Fairview, and a resident of Stanley believes he found evidence of two big cats roaming the area.

Witnesses report seeing a feline creature that was far bigger than a domestic cat, with a long black tail. In its wake the creature has left sheep carcasses gnawed down to the bone, remains of foxes, bones that have been crunched up and footprints in the snow that looked like those of a polecat, but much bigger.

One theory is that the panther or big cat was released into the wild back in 1976, when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act came into force. The act was originally introduced as a private members bill in response to public concern about keeping dangerous pets, especially big cats.

It meant that lovers of exotic animals, including the lynx, puma and all other non – domestic cats, had to apply to the local authority for a special licence. A spokesman for the RSPCA said it was likely a big cat would survive the British climate, and said the society had no reason to believe big cats were not roaming remote parts of the countryside.”There are quite a few big cat sightings every year and it is something we take very seriously.” she said. “We often send our inspectors out, but by the time they get there, the animal has gone because they can travel a large distance every day.” She added: “There certainly seems to be enough evidence that there are panthers and pumas out there.”

Danny Bamping, founder and media spokesman for the British Big Cat Society, said the sightings came in clusters because the cats move around according to the seasons. ” They also prefer different types of land at different times,” he said. ” In the winter they come down off the moorland to low ground and in the summer they go back up on the moor were it is warmer. The cats can also do 15-20 miles in just one evening, which is why the sightings can be so far apart.”

The society has been collating information about sightings of suspected big cats over the last 18 months, which will be shortly published. “Around 60-70 per cent of the sightings in the UK are black cats, and I believe a lot of them are panthers, although there are potentially a lot of big cat hybrids out there,” said Mr Bamping. “But its possible people are just seeing very big domestic cats or feral cats.” He said the main thing to look out for when spotting the big cat is the paw prints.

“The paw print of a big cat has what looks like three concave pads at the back heel, and no claw marks because cats have their claws retracted when they walk around.” he said. “If the print has claw marks, its probably a dog.”

I RELEASED PANTHER ON MOORS  published 21st April 2004

A pantherwatch organisation thinks the mystery large cat like creature reported seen in the Moorlands could be the offspring of an animal released on the moors more than 27 years ago. Jack Maiden has admitted he released a panther 26 years ago on to the moor on the Pennines.

Mr Maiden, of Cradley Heath, Dudley, West Midlands, told a BBC regional news programme: “It was miles from anywhere. IKt was a couple of days after releasing a cougar.” More than 100 leopards and pumas are thought to be roaming the British countryside, according to the organisation, and the increasing sightings in the Staffordshire Moorlands are no coincidence, a spokesman said this week.

The big cat experts believe the animals are offspring of beasts released by owners in the 1970s after the introduction of stringent new laws governing wild and dangerous animals. Mr Maiden aged 63, known locally as One – eyed Nick, added: “I’ve always been an animal lover. But people came to me with the animals saying they would have to put them down. I had no option.”

Fellow big cat owner Lewis Foley, aged 61, who kept the animals at a menagerie with Mr Maiden, disclosed that a friend of his in Coventry had set a panther loose in Nottinghamshire in 1974. Mr Foley said: “He knew about the new laws and didn’t want it put down.”

An RSPCA spokesman said Mr Maiden and Mr Foley had not broken the law because it only became illegal to release wild animals into the countryside in the early 1980s.

Commenting on the apparent rise in sightings of big cats, she added: “A lot of these are unconfirmed, but people should not necessarily be alarmed. There’s no need for people to panic.”

I SAW THE PANTHER IN MEADOW  published 14th April 2004

Following last week’s appeal for news and pictures of the panther that stalks the Moorlands, a woman from Biddulph Moor has come forward.

Diane Jarnell was travelling with her husband from Rudyard towards Biddulph Moor on Sunday lunchtime when she spotted what she believes was the panther. ” I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she said. “I looked across the meadow and there were sheep close to the road, but on the other side of the field there was something that definitely looked like a panther. It was too big to be a cat, and it was black with a long tail.”

Mrs Jarnell, who moved from sale Sale in Cheshire only nine months ago, added: ” I said to my husband that if we had been in the West Country I would have been certain I’d seen a panther. Then I saw the article in the Leek Post and Times – I believe it was definitely a panther.”

Mrs Jarnell said the animal she saw was crouching by the hedge in a feline manner and was larger than an alsation dog. “I thought I should report what I had seen to the police, so my daughter rang Leek police satation,” she said.” I know there are children close to where I saw the panther, so I was worried about them.”

WOMAN ON BUS SPOTS PANTHER  published 25th August 2004

The infamous Moorlands panther has been spotted once again. A woman travelling by bus to Buxton last Thursday saw the big cat prowling in a Crowdecote field.

Sheila Fox, from Longnor, said the animal was unlike anything she had ever seen. She said: “I was about the only one on the bus. The bus went up the hill at Crowdecote, then just before it turned left at the crossroads I realised a black thing was moving in one of the fields, about 100 yards away, running towards the road. It was jet black and stood out against the background, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen. I would call it a panther. It was very hefty, definitely to big to be a cat, and its head was very level, not like a cow or a dog. I couldn’t think it could be anything but a panther.”

Mrs Fox lost sight of the creature when the bus she was on turned and her view was blocked by trees. She said: “I would have loved to see what happened next. I couldn’t believe it.”

Mrs Fox’s experience continues a spate of sightings in the Moorlands, the most recent being at Biddulph Moor and Blackshaw Moor.

Big cat experts believe the animals could be the offspring of beasts released by owners after the introduction of new laws in 1976 governing wild and dangerous animals. Many owners said they let their animals loose to avoid having them put down.

TEACHER MAKES BIG CAT SIGHTING  published 2004-2005

The elusive black panther which has been spotted throughout the Moorlands may have been sighted again. The large cat like animal was seen at Blackshaw Moor last weekend.

A resident told the Leek Post and Times she had seen what she described as “an extremely large black cat.” The resident, a local school-teacher who did not wish to be named, said: “I would say the animal was definitely not a domestic cat, it was far too large. It was the size of a collie dog and jet black.”

The sighting took place in a field near to the Three Horseshoes restaurant, when she was driving towards Tittesworth Reservoir. The woman added: “It was walking next to a hedgerow, and was definitely a cat like animal. It was slinking along just like a feline. Then it went into the hedge and I lost sight of it. I wish I’d had a camera with me. I could easily have photographed it. It was no more than 50 yards away.”

Danny Bamping founder of the British Big Cat Society, said the sightings came in clusters because the cats move around according to the season. He said: ” They also prefer different types of land at different times. In the winter they come down off the Moorland to low ground in the summer they go back up on the Moorland where it is warmer. The cats can also do 15-20 miles in just one evening, which is why the sightings can be so far apart.”

The society has been collating information about sightings of suspected big cats over the last 18 months and will publish its findings shortly.

“Around 60-70 percent of the sightings in the UK are black cats, and I believe a lot of them are panthers, although there are potentially a lot of big cat hybrids out there,” said Mr Bamping. “But its possible people are seeing just very large domestic cats or feral cats.”

He said the main thing to look out for when spotting a big cat were the paw prints.

“The paw print of a big cat has what looks like three concave pads at the back heel, and no claw marks because cats have claws retracted when they walk around,”he said. “If the print has claw marks, it is probably a dog.”


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