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On The Prowl with Nick Mays

Alien big cats exist!

The mystery of Britain’s Alien Big Cats (ABCs) has been reported since the 1960s. To mark the anniversary of the first sightings, experts have gathered to discuss the issue at the first national British Big Cats Conference.

News of the conference raises the question of whether authorities may have changed their attitude over ABC’s existence. It comes as a newly released police report revealed that in 1991 a gamekeeper in Norwich shot dead a lynx after it started chasing his dog. The lynx was discovered in a freezer during a raid. They concluded it must have escaped from a private collection.

Between 1962 and 1966 the sightings and hunt for the Surrey Puma raised the possibility that Britain had its own share of hitherto unknown wild beasts. The Surrey Puma has been joined over the years by many more now-famous ABCs, the Beast of Bodmin Moor being one example.
In 1980 a Scottish farmer managed to trap a female puma in a cage using a sheep’s head as bait. The puma, said to be “snarling and vicious”, had been attacking livestock. The big cat was named Felicity and moved to a wildlife park, where it was said to be very tame. Felicity is now stuffed and mounted in Inverness museum.

The British Big Cats Society has some basic advice should you find yourself in a big cat’s sights. “Don’t approach it, don’t threaten it and report it,” says Danny Bamping of the Society.

“We do think it’s something that needs to be taken seriously,” said a spokeswoman from the National Farmers’ Union, adding that suspected animal deaths by a big cat should be reported to the police.

Though it seems that all are in agreement of ABC’s existence, the official word appears to be that these cats are escapees rather than a breeding population.

Though the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) says animals have escaped from zoos or from illegal collections, it does not think they are breeding once free.
After the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animal Act was introduced, DEFRA says that sightings reached a high. It believes that as the Act banned keeping such animals as pets, collectors released their pets into the forests and moors of Britain. However, DEFRA think that these creatures did not breed and instead are a steady stream of escapees. A spokeswoman said, “There is always an issue of something escaping from somewhere.”

Before the Act became law, the keeping of big cats was legal. It was also legal to free them into the wild before the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. DEFRA and many others think this is how the cats came to be living wild.

However, there are many other theories of what these animals are or where they came from. Some believe they have lived in the wild for hundreds of years, while others think they are from a line of circus escapees dating back possibly as far as medieval times. According to some, the sightings are a supernatural sign, ghostlike warnings of death. But for many, the Dangerous Wild Animal Act remains the most likely cause.

Gloucestershire has had around 40 to 50 sightings in the last year, with most vaguely describing a leopard with a “dirty black” coat. However, the chances of seeing one in the countryside is low and they are not yet regarded as a threat to the public.