So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

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ChrisJH
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So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:53 pm

I'll put a number of reports up here to show how much activity we have had in NE England regarding Big Cats

I live on the edge of the Pennines in County Durham, the area is mostly rural, lots of woodland, open country, farms with sheep in the main and sheep roam free on the heathland of the heights

The River Wear runs through it and streams and reservoirs all around...for mobility there are old railway lines and bridleways with woodland around and for shelter there is woodland, natural caves and abandoned drift mines...the county is packed with wildlife - especially Rabbits and deer and an over abundance of pheasants and grouse - in short it is one long Smorgasbord of a county from the coast to Cumbria

The Government still denies that we have big cats up here - and yet periodically the local dogs refuse to go out at night or turn tail and run from something we cannot see in the darkness...bins are robbed...dead sheep and deer are found and occasionally footprints and hairs are found

so what I intend to do is put up some newspaper stories to show that on probability we do have a large cat population up here
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:54 pm

The Northern Echo for 2001

Monday 16 & Tueday 17 April 2001

More lambs are killed in latest 'beast' attack

THE mystery beast which has slaughtered scores of lambs in the past few weeks and left a farmer fearing for his livelihood has struck again.
Police are investigating the spate of attacks, which all occurred at night on a County Durham farm.
Last night, however, they played down suggestions that the attacks could be the work of a big cat, such as the fabled Durham puma.
Farmer Dick Wade, who has lost 26 animals in less than two weeks, vowed he would show the culprit no mercy, no matter what it turned out to be.
Mr Wade spoke out after waking up yesterday morning to find a further seven lambs savaged in his fields at Primrose Side Farm, at New Brancepeth, near Durham City.
The most likely suspect, according to police, remains a large dog - probably one from a nearby village.
In all the instances the lambs have been newly-born and have been killed by a crushing bite to the head. Some have been partly eaten.
Mr Wade said: "I am at my wits' end. I don't get any compensation for this either. If I ever find the culprit, I will shoot it."
He said: "The sheep are in five fields, so it is impossible to keep an eye on them all during the night.
"With the foot-and-mouth disease restrictions, we are unable to move the sheep out of the field."
His wife, Pauline, said last night: "This is really getting my husband and son down. Every morning now, I see them coming in from the fields looking so dejected."
Durham wildlife liaison officer Sergeant Eddie Bell, who is investigating, said: "Looking at the pattern of the attacks, and the fact that they have all happened over a short period of time in a small area, it could be a dog living not far away, possibly from one of the local villages.
"It could be a dog with a powerful jaw, such as a German shepherd or collie dog. Somebody must have an idea that their dog is getting out at night."

Friday, 20 April 2001

Sighting adds to 'big cat' mystery
A HUNT was continuing yesterday for a mysterious big cat after another sighting in the region.
There have been a number of reports of panthers and pumas across the region during the past few weeks, including Durham, where there have been reports of several lambs killed by a wild animal.
However, attention has now switched to North Yorkshire, where a woman walking on fields at West Lutton, near Malton, reported seeing a large black cat - which she described as bigger than a Labrador.
A similar description was also given of an animal reported by a driver using the A65, near Settle, on the other side of the county, who claimed to have seen a large, black cat jump over a wall in late March.
A number of reports of a "black panther" also came from Nidderdale, west of Harrogate, in the mid-1990s.
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said yesterday: "There is still no convincing evidence to prove there is a large feline creature loose in the wild.
"That does not mean we can discount the possibility and we would encourage anyone who sees what they believe to be a dangerous animal to contact the police immediately.''

Tuesday, 29 January 2002

Scary prints no claws for concern

PAW prints thought to belong to a large cat have been dismissed as a hoax.
The prints, thought to belong to a lynx, were found in snow on New Year's Eve at Billingham Bottoms, Billingham, Teesside.
However, David Laing, assistant warden at Billingham Beck Valley Park, has reassured nearby residents there is no need for alarm.
He said: "It is just my opinion, but looking at the photographs I think it is just a clumsy hoax.
"I don't think a big cat would find much to feed on here. There is no need for alarm."
Lynx, long-legged wild cats which were native to England before the Ice Age, can survive extremely well in northern climates.
They vary in colour from sandy to dark grey.
Their tails are very short compared with other wild cats, and their ears and cheeks are tufted, with black tips on their ears.
The prints were discovered by John Collett, 50, from New Road, Billingham, while out with his wife Maureen, walking their dogs.
The markings were about the size of the palm of a hand with what looked like four claw marks.
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:56 pm

Saturday, 9 February 2002

Warning over big cat sighting
POLICE have issued a warning to rural people to be on their guard after a reported sighting of a big cat.
An RSPCA inspector and police were called to Scotton, near Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, yesterday, after a woman claimed to have seen the creature in a field full of sheep.
However, it leapt into another field and disappeared from view before she could contact the authorities.
It was said to be five times the size of a normal cat, and brown, with other dark markings and a cat-like face.
A police spokesman said: "A resident, whom an officer described as 'sensible', said she saw an animal about five times the size of a normal cat in a field of sheep.
"We are emphasising that this animal has not attacked any animals or people, or threatened them, but we do feel residents should be aware of the situation."
Anyone who has seen the creature is asked to contact police on (01609) 783131.

Thursday, 11 July 2002

Police expert on the trail of another puma

Police were last night investigating a sighting of a puma by two boys out walking their dog.
The creature was spotted by the teenagers just before midnight on Monday at Scar Top, Barnard Castle.
It is the latest in a string of glimpses of big cats in Britain's countryside.
Although the boys only saw the animal momentarily before it ran off into woodland, police said they described it as about the size of a big cat such as a puma.
There have been numerous reported sightings of pumas since the Dangerous Animals Act was introduced in 1976, which meant owners of big cats had to have a licence to keep them.
Many owners simply released their animals into the wild.
Some of the most conclusive sightings have been reported in the Barnard Castle area. Fur and a paw mark found near the carcass of a sheep near Whorlton, in Teesdale, several years ago, was found to belong to a puma.
Durham Police wildlife officer Sergeant Eddie Bell, who has investigated numerous sightings of big cats, said the animal spotted on Monday could well have been a puma.
Sgt Bell said: "I have no doubt that there are pumas living in the wild, and sightings reported around Barnard Castle have usually proven to be the most convincing.
"I will be looking a bit closer at this sighting."
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:57 pm

Tuesday, 7 January 2003

If you go down to the woods today...

As a bigfoot is reported lurking in a country park, Nick Morrison looks at accounts of exotic creatures apparently living in our midst.
BLURRED photographs, mysterious footprints, odd shaped droppings, mauled livestock - sometimes it must seem as though the weight of evidence is overwhelming. While we blithely go about our everyday lives, a host of weird and wonderful creatures, most of which have no right to be here at all, are apparently living right under our noses.
The Durham puma is probably the most well-known of the North-East's exotic creatures, but it is not the only big cat to be seen in these parts. A lion, or at least a lion-sized cat, has been seen at Malton in North Yorkshire, and a panther was spotted near Scarborough.
And nor do big cats have a monopoly on fleeting appearances. A motorist reported seeing a kangaroo hop in front of his car near Ripon, before it swiftly hopped off again; a wallaby jumped in front of a car near Darlington and a small kangaroo was seen near Barnard Castle. Giant pike are regular marauders, one said to have eaten a dog foolish enough to jump into a pond at Fatfield, near Washington, and another all but wiping out the duck population of Stockton's Ropner Park.
Perhaps most chilling of all were the sightings of a crocodile, anything from six to 14ft long, in a park in the middle of Newcastle. An extensive search of the park failed to find any sign of the scaly snapper.
But there is a new entry in the pantheon of mysterious beasts roaming our parks, moors and ponds. A bigfoot - or sasquatch, or yeti - has been spotted by anglers at Bolam Lake country park, at Belsay in Northumberland. Eight feet tall, with glowing eyes, it must have been a terrifying sight as it loomed in the middle of a track ahead of three fisherman, who promptly fled. Another witness reports hearing a creature growl outside his tent as he camped at the lake, and when he emerged the next morning, presumably having slept only fitfully, he found his fishing tackle had vanished.
The reports have been detailed by Newcastle-based researcher Geoff Lincoln, who has set up the British Hominid Research organisation to investigate bigfoot sightings in this country. And he has reason to believe they are genuine.
"This figure that appeared and observed these people matches a lot of those seen in America, where most of the sightings occur. Researchers say these things appear from nowhere. You could be driving down the road when your car breaks down and while you're fumbling under the bonnet you could see something standing there, observing.
"If you go looking for them you never see them. If they feel threatened they tend to merge back into the background. These creatures seem to be totally passive, there are no reports of them attacking anyone - that's if they exist because I can't say for sure that they do," he says.
One man who has had more experience than most of looking into reports of the weird and the wonderful is Sergeant Eddie Bell, a wildlife officer with Durham Police, who since 1985 has investigated some 400 sightings of unusual animals. He has managed to provide an explanation for every one, although in around 60 cases it did turn out that that there was a creature not meant to be there.
He says the most common reports are of big cats roaming wild, and there is hard evidence that at least two types of cat are on the loose. One is the lynx, once native to this country and thought to have been wiped out in Roman times. But Sgt Bell says it is likely that some survived in isolated pockets and have managed to prosper largely hidden from human eyes, emerging only to terrify passing motorists. Puma are non-native but were kept as pets and released into the wild after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 forced owners to buy a licence for their wild cats.
"I've got a photograph taken in Stanhope market place in 1971 which shows a puma sitting in the back of a car, and there was a woman in Chester-le-Street who released four pumas into Weardale in 1977," he says.
As well as the lynx and puma, there is a strong likelihood of the existence of a wolf pack in Northumberland, after wolves escaped from a van north of Newcastle, and wild boar have spread into the Tyne and Derwent valleys after escaping the butcher's knife.
Some sightings, however, carry a little less weight. A bear spotted near Stanley is likely to have been a Newfoundland dog and a report of a tiger the size of a labrador at Medomsley is unlikely to be true, if only because a labrador is nowhere near the size of a tiger. But reports of strange creatures should not be dismissed out of hand.
"Being a witness lands you in all sorts of embarrassing situations," says Sgt Bell. "The first thing is, people think you are drunk or mad, but you have to remember that people genuinely believe they have seen what they say they have seen. Quite a lot of them get offended or upset if you suggest what they have seen is something more banal or ordinary.
"But you have to remember that what you are looking at almost certainly has a genuine explanation. Big cats and wallabies do exist, although with something like a bigfoot it is unlikely they exist anywhere else in the world, and that means it is even more unlikely there has been one in Northumberland.
"This is a country of 57 million people, some of them go walking, some of them are massive, some of them wear very funny clothing. The likelihood is, they have seen somebody with moonboots and a big fur coat."
But even if bigfoot was not spotted at Bolam, the reports may not just be down to a fur-clad rambler and a trick of the light, and even perhaps a drop of ale. There may be a deeper reason why we are so keen to see the fabulous in the fir trees.
"We genuinely want something to be different in our lives, I think everybody suffers from that," says Sgt Bell. "We want to be excited, to take us away from our boring, everyday lives.
"But most people don't have much idea about wildlife: what is out there; what it looks like; how big it is. You get people saying they have heard a big cat following them, but if a big cat was following them they wouldn't hear it. I got a call saying someone had heard a cat galloping across a field, but that was a horse.
"And I don't think people realise how big the areas are that these things live in. There isn't an area around Bolam remote enough for a group of eight foot tall creatures to have existed in since the Ice Age. It couldn't happen."
Sgt Bell may have, perhaps rather rashly, staked his reputation on bigfoot not being found at Bolam, but Geoff Lincoln, for one, is not to be deterred. Armed with advice from American experts who have been tracking the sasquatch, he is now planning an expedition to the lake, to get some hard evidence of his own.
"They say the best thing is to go up there during the night, don't take any cameras or anything in your hand that looks like a weapon. Go to a place where there's been a report of a sighting and make noises that are totally non-threatening, baby noises or something, to arouse their curiosity.
"I've got recordings from America of supposed noises they make and I might play a tape and see what happens. You read things and think these people are madmen, but I'd like to try it. These chaps obviously saw something, so you just don't know."

Tuesday, 15 April 2003

'Puma' may have been a feral cat

AN expert on big cat sightings has played down the possibility that the Durham puma may have moved to the Yorkshire Dales.
Three friends walking near Leyburn, North Yorkshire, spotted a large animal slinking across the crest of a rocky outcrop in Wensleydale at the weekend. They said it was a black cat, but bigger than a domestic pet.
However, Sergeant Eddie Bell, of Consett, County Durham, who has investigated dozens of sightings over the years, said it was unlikely they saw the puma.
"It seems more likely that what these people saw was a big feral cat," he said.
"Kellas cats were bred in captivity in Scotland and can grow as large as a small border collie.
"Nine bodies of jungle cats have also been found around the country, so that is another possibility.''

Tuesday, 6 & 7 May 2003

Durham puma spotted again

The phantom Durham puma is not only real, but was recently spotted prowling the countryside, according to a wildlife expert.
Sergeant Eddie Bell, a Durham Constabulary wildlife liaison officer, recently received a report of a big brown cat lurking in the shadows of a rural area near Durham City.
While he has been informed of many similar sightings of what people believed to be the Durham puma over the past 20 years, most have turned out to be feral cats.
But Sgt Bell said the description given by the latest caller, who wishes to remain anonymous, left him in no doubt that he had seen the legendary beast.
"A man rang to report it and the description was very good," he said.
"It was a proper brown puma and its size and shape were described properly.
"About every 15th sighting is probably a puma."
In the 1960s and 70s, pumas were commonly kept as pets, but when new legislation restricting this took effect in 1976, many were released into the wild.
Sgt Bell believes there could still be up to 80 or 90 living in the British Isles.
Since 1986, he has received around 350 reports of sightings in County Durham, but believes that only around 70 of these were genuine.
He said the creatures could quite easily have survived largely undetected for so long.
"It's a very easy life for them here compared with North America, there they are from," he said.
"They have survived 10,000ft up in the Canadian Rockies, so there's nothing here that would worry them.
"They are very shy and will fight to the death to protect their territory, but they are not dangerous to people."
Sgt Bell believes there could be up to ten females living in the county, along with three roaming males.
"They never meet except to mate because if they did, they would kill each other," he said.
"There's no puma Women's Institute."
* Pumas can be recognised by their brown colouring and size - around 5ft from nose to base of tail and 28 inches from paw to shoulder, and weighing 160-170lbs. They live on farmland, are nocturnal, and can be spotted crossing roads, on old railway lines, or near riverbanks.

Thursday, 30 October 2003

Possible sighting of legendary Durham puma

A large black cat spotted on a North-East nature reserve led council workers to wonder if they had seen the legendary Durham puma.
Jeff Talbot and Ian Liddle were working on a former allotment site at Bishop Middleham, County Durham, when they noticed something moving in the undergrowth.
Mr Talbot, who works for Sedgefield Borough Council, said the animal was jet black and the size of a large dog, but moved like a cat. He said: "I saw what I immediately thought was a large black cat and I prompted Ian.
"I knew what I thought it was in my own mind, but I wanted it confirmed, so I asked Ian what he thought and he said it was a large cat. "I didn't believe my own eyes at first, but I'm glad Ian was there because I always used to dismiss these stories."
Further enquiries at the site, which is being turned into a wetland and wildlife reserve, revealed there had been further sightings and carcasses found close to the scene.
Sergeant Eddie Bell, Durham Constabulary's wildlife liaison officer, has been tracking similar sightings throughout the county over the last 20 years.
He believes there is firm evidence of pumas roaming the countryside in County Durham, but most of the sightings reported to him turn out to be feral cats.
He said the sighting is very interesting, but added the jet black colour reported probably rules out a puma or a leopard in this case.
He said: "This could have been a very big feral cat which, because it's taken out of context, can appear as big as a dog.
"These are nice, big spectacular animals, but the only sightings that scare me are when people say it's the size of a small horse."

Thursday 11 December 2003

Weardale Wolverine spotted

FOR years, it was the legendary Durham Puma which stayed one step ahead of wildlife buffs eager to prove its existence.
But now, experts are in a flap over sightings of a new mystery beast - the Weardale Wolverine.
Exotic wildlife research organisation Beastwatch is on the hunt for evidence of the creature after a motorist claimed to have spotted one in the most unlikely location.
The female driver contacted Beastwatch to say she had twice seen a "big, ferret-like creature" on the moors between Rookhope and Ireshopburn.
The woman, whose name has not been disclosed, told the organisation: "I have twice seen a beastie that looks like one - a big, ferret-like" creature, almost as long as a badger.
"It is 'polecat'-coloured at a guess, but on both occasions it has been dark and only briefly seen in the car lights. "Whatever it is, it lives in a small conifer plantation, populated by loads of rabbits, hares, squirrels, so plenty of food."
Chris Mullins, of Beastwatch, said: "There have been other reports, but not in the North-East. There was a wolverine shot in Wales some time ago.
"It is most uncommon to see them and we are just looking for any more information. The creature, a relative of the skunk, is said to be up to 18 inches tall, powerfully-built, with sharp teeth and a bushy tail."
It is a nocturnal hunter, preying on whatever it can find, from rats to rabbits. It is considered an endangered animal because of hunting by fur traders.


Saturday 13 December 2003


Wolverine sighted on North moorland"

FOR years, it was the legendary Durham Puma that stayed one step ahead of wildlife enthusiasts eager to prove its existence.
But now, experts are in a flap over sightings of a new mystery beast -the Weardale Wolverine.
Exotic wildlife research organisation Beastwatch is on the hunt for evidence after a motorist said she saw one.
The driver contacted Beastwatch to say she had twice seen a "big, ferret-like creature" on moors between Rookhope and Ireshopeburn, County Durham.
The woman, whose name has not been disclosed, said: "I have twice seen a beastie that looks like one, a big, ferret-like creature, almost as long as a badger.
"It is polecat-coloured at a guess, but on both occasions it has been dark and only briefly seen in the car lights.
"Whatever it is, it lives in a small conifer plantation populated by loads of rabbits, hares and squirrels."
Chris Mullins, of Beastwatch, said: "There have been other reports, but not in the North-East. There was a wolverine shot in Wales some time ago.
"It is most uncommon to see them, and we are just looking for any more information."
Wolverines, relatives of the skunk, are up to 18in tall, powerfully built, with sharp teeth and a bushy tail.
The endangered animals are nocturnal and prey on whatever they can find.
l Police have also been on the trail of a big cat after a sighting near Stillington, Teesside.
A 37-year-old man from Norton reported seeing a black panther-like animal leap from behind a fence on Sunday.
Cleveland Police's wildlife officer visited the scene but found no evidence. Further checks will be made.
More than 500 sightings of cat-like creatures have been reported across the North-East in the past two decades.
The first recorded sighting of the beast that came to be known as the Durham Puma was in August 1986, when a lorry driver spotted a giant cat near the A1(M) at Sedgefield.
When droppings were found several years ago, tests confirmed they were from a puma, but it has so far eluded capture.
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:59 pm

Wednesday, 21 April 2004

Big cats at large - and on increase

IT has become the stuff of legend - big cats roaming wild in the English countryside.
But now it appears pumas, lynxes and other big cats do exist in ever greater numbers and could even be breeding.
According to an exhaustive study by the British Big Cats Society, there have been 2,052 sightings in the past 15 months - equivalent to four a day - compared with a mere 438 in 2001.
The animals seem to have taken a particular liking to this part of the world, with 127 sightings reported in Yorkshire, and a further 18 logged in the North-East during the period.
Overall, the North had 288 sightings, an increase of more than 320 per cent, the largest increase anywhere in the country.
Society founder Danny Bamping called for Government support in undertaking a properly funded scientific study on the subject.
He said: "There is little doubt that big cats are roaming Britain."
Last night, Dr Melissa Bateson, royal society research fellow in the school of biology at Newcastle University, said it was entirely possible that big cats were now producing offspring.
She said: "Food could be an issue, but as long as there is enough of a supply of things like sheep, it shouldn't be a problem."
Dozens of sightings of big cats have been made in recent years. In Durham, a puma-like animal has been spotted in areas including Sedgefield, Barnard Castle and Bishop Middleham.
Clusters have also been reported around the Middleton Tyas, North Cowton and Scotton areas, in North Yorkshire.
Police Sergeant Eddie Bell logs an average of two big cat sightings a month.
Among them were three sightings by separate witnesses who reported a spotted leopard.
"When we plotted them, the cat appeared to be travelling in a straight line through Upper Teesdale and into Alston," he said. "Over a period of 36 hours it was travelling north and had been seen by three unrelated and credible witnesses."
Sgt Bell, one of Durham Constabulary's wildlife liaison officers, has also recovered lynx droppings following a number of sightings near Derwent Reservoir, in County Durham.
He added: "There is no doubt we have puma - the evidence is overwhelming, although I would say only one in ten sightings turns out to be genuine and not a mistake."

Tuesday, 27 July 2004

"Beast of Wensleydale" mystery

A LARGE black animal - possibly a panther - has been spotted prowling the Yorkshire Dales.
A motorist spotted the mystery beast in fields near East Witton, in Wensleydale, early on Saturday morning.
The woman immediately reported the sighting to North Yorkshire Police.
Jackie Thirsk, sub-postmistress at East Witton Post Office, walks her dogs in the woods and fields around the village every day.
She said: "It's funny, but a friend and I did find a half-eaten lamb's leg the other day.
"I might just be keeping an eye on the hedge backs from now on. There's certainly a fair few places it could hide around here."
The sighting has been reported to the British Big Cats Society. Founder Danny Bamping said: "Yorkshire has been a big cat sighting hot-spot for the last three years. Most animals spotted are black."
According to a survey by the society, there were 2,052 sightings nationwide in the 15 months to March, 2004 compared with 438 in 2001.
With 127, Yorkshire has the third highest number of sightings in the country.
A further 18 were logged in the North-East during the same period.
In North Yorkshire, sightings have been reported around Middleton Tyas, North Cowton and Scotton.
In County Durham, a puma-like animal has been spotted in the Sedgefield, Barnard Castle and Bishop Middleham areas.
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:00 pm

Monday, 7 February 2005

Seeking to solve a big cat mystery

THE legend of the mysterious Durham puma is to come under renewed scrutiny in a new television programme.
The Tyne Tees documentary will delve into the growing number of sightings of a strange cat-like creature in remote areas of County Durham and Teesside.
Producer Georgina Kiedrowski got the idea for the programme after she became one of the dozens of people across the North-East who claim to have seen a big cat.
"I was driving south on the A1 and just before the Darlington exit, I saw a large black animal in the distance, on the grassy bank next to the road.
"At first I didn't know what it was and, to be honest, was worried about the animal wandering onto the carriageway and causing an accident.
"As I got closer and closer to it, I was sure what I was looking at was a big, black cat."
Ms Kiedrowski had a stills camera in the car and looked for somewhere to pull over safely to photograph the creature.
But as she got alongside it, it disappeared over the embankment
"As ridiculous as I felt, I called Darlington police. I have to admit that I was quite astonished when the policewoman I spoke to said that I shouldn't worry that I was going mad because people had phoned in many times before with similar stories."
The documentary, called In Search of The Durham Puma, features a number of eyewitness accounts, including Durham-based photographer Philip Nixon.
Mr Nixon's picture of what he says is a large cat carrying a dead rabbit in its mouth was first published in The Northern Echo.
Last summer, Jack Smurthwhaite and his two young walking companions - 11-year-old Liam Claughan and his eight-year-old sister, Emily - believe they saw a large black cat and its cub near their home in Elwick, near Hartlepool.
Durham Police wildlife liason officer Sergeant Eddie Bell, has been involved in the investigations into most of the sightings in the North-East.
He is convinced that not one, but numerous big cats are roaming the North-East.
The programme also features Northern Echo news editor Nigel Burton, who has covered stories of the big cat sightings for many years.
* In Search of The Durham Puma can be seen on ITV, on Tuesday March 15, at 7.30pm.

Friday, 11 March 2005

Big cat is spotted killing deer as search for wild puma goes on
POLICE are investigating a new spate of wild cat sightings, including a puma savaging a full-grown deer.
The creature - believed to be the legendary Durham puma - has been reported prowling a remote area of east Durham.
Police are taking the sightings seriously because they coincided with the mysterious death of a deer.
Stanley greengrocer Joe Quinn, 50, said he was saw the creature near Northumbria Riding School, past the Jolly Drover roundabout, on the Consett to Stanley road.
He was delivering flowers last week during the heavy snowfalls, so the outline of the big cat in the road was clear.
Mr Quinn said: "It was massive. At first, I thought it was a big dog but, as I got closer, a Shetland pony came to mind.
"There was no mistaking the fact that it was a cat."
The cat bounded off the road and ran off across a field. Mr Quinn reported the sighting to Stanley Police.
Durham Constabulary wildlife liaison officer Sergeant Eddie Bell said the sighting came within days of a farmer seeing a cat kill a wild deer half a mile away at Iveston.
He said: "A farmer saw the cat chase the deer over a fence into a bit of woodland and kill it. They went up later and found a deer carcass, which had a bite in the front of it which appears to have been the way it was killed.
"It is probably a cat because it had to get near the deer to attack it.
"It is easy to tell the difference between a dog and a cat killing and we have recovered droppings from cats in the wilds of the North-East."
Sgt Bell said he had little doubt there are wild cats living in County Durham.
One theory is that the puma was a pet that became too big and was subsequently released into the wild.
He said: "These are animals which have lived in captivity and were kept as pets before 1976. We know they were released into the wild.
"We are not talking about yetis or bigfoots here."
Margaret Richardson, 83, of Good Street, Stanley, said she saw massive paw prints in the snow last Thursday that led from her house out towards Beamish Woods.
She said: "It must have come next door and hopped over the fence then took off across the green in front of the house.
"The prints were so big they cannot have been human and they were about a yard apart.
"It must have been a big cat. It is quite worrying that they can come so close to home."
The Northern Echo ran stories on a pet puma during the 1970s and the animals were regularly advertised in Exchange and Mart.
An ITV documentary - In Search of the Durham Puma - will delve into the mystery on Tuesday at 7.30pm.
The Show's producer, Georgina Kiedrowski, got the idea for the programme after she spotted a big cat on a grassy bank as she drove south on the A1, just before the Darlington exit.
She said: "As I got closer and closer to it, I was sure what I was looking at was a big, black cat."

Monday, 18 April 2005

Wolverine blamed for lamb attacks

ONE of the world's most ferocious animals is being blamed for a spate of attacks on lambs.
Twelve lambs have been killed on a farm in County Durham, leading police animal liaison officer Eddie Bell to suspect a wolverine could be responsible.
The lambs all belong to Andrew Spence, of Iveston.
When he discovered the first attack, he thought the lamb could have been the victim of the legendary Durham Puma.
But Sgt Bell said the killing method used suggests it was not a big cat, but a wolverine.
He said: "We have had big cat sightings at Iveston, but cats never kill two prey at a time, and pumas certainly do not leave their prey just lying there. They always carry them off.
"We have evidence that wolverines are loose in this country. Wolverines are fearless and ferocious and will drive a grizzly bear off a kill.
"I would advise anyone coming across one of these creatures to back off and get away as soon as possible."
Wolverines, a member of the stoat family, are native to North America.
Other animals Sgt Bell believes could have been responsible for the attacks include a large dog or a boar.
Mr Spence said: "Whatever did it was powerful enough to crack their ribcages as if they were twigs.
"My stockman, who has many years' experience, is completely baffled at the way these lambs have been killed.
"He says he has not seen anything like it.
"My children usually play around the farm, but I have told them not to go too far because I am worried."


Friday, 22 July 2005

On the scent of the big cats

Reports of 'big cats' roaming the North-East regularly make the newspaper headlines but, although naturalists believe the sightings are genuine, they also think the creatures are not breeding but are, in fact dying out. John Dean reports.
IT was as the couple were walking along the country path that the big cat appeared 30 metres ahead of them. Silently, it loped along the track for a short while before disappearing into the undergrowth once more.
It was not a long encounter but enough for the couple to convince themselves they were watching a puma - and not in North America, but just outside Stockton, Teesside.
Reported in 1999, it is one of the sightings studied by a leading North-East naturalists' group whose findings, just released, suggest big cats do roam the North-East but are less numerous than some would suggest.
The man behind the survey believes that, contrary to claims by those who suggest the population is growing, the creatures may already be dying out.
Ian Bond, from Darlington, a member of the Northumbrian Mammal Group, which brings together some of the leading naturalists in the region, approached the research from an ecologist's standpoint, analytical and scientific.
An ecologist for a North-East council, he is more used to assessing reports of endangered mammals such as harvest mice.
He says: "The idea with the big cat sightings was to use the same criteria we use when asked to confirm the existence of something like harvest mice. When someone tells me they have seen a harvest mouse, I ask where it was, what size it was, what colour it was. From that I can determine if the report is genuine.
"I did the same with the big cat sightings. The best ones were from people who knew about animals - some of the reports came from naturalists - and were adamant that they had seen a big cat and not a large moggy. Some of the people had dogs with them, which helped them compare the size of their animal with the creature they were seeing."
Mr Bond first asked for sightings through the group newsletter in 1999 and since then has collected 32 sightings from group members and the public, which seem to suggest the presence of big cats.
He has graded nine as As, those which he says could not possibly be anything else than a big cat, and 23 as B, where there is a strong possibility but which cannot be proved beyond all doubt.
The As throw up intriguing patterns: two sightings of a panther in the Guisborough and Roseberry area of east Cleveland, two of a panther in the Hartlepool/Sedgefield area last year and the Stockton puma from 1999. The other grade A sightings were of some kind of big cat in south Northumberland and a lynx at Blanchland in the county in 2000.
Of the Bs, seven were from Cleveland, six from the Stockton/Billingham and Stillington area, four identifying a panther, one a lynx and two an unknown big cat.
Nine were from County Durham, including a sighting this year of a panther-type creature in the Delves Lane/Iveston area of North Durham, two of a panther at Bishop Middleham over the past two years, and a lynx at Medomsley, near Durham, in 2002. The rest of the Bs were in Northumberland.
Mr Bond says: "The Stockton sighting was a good example of an A: taking everything into account there was no other explanation for what the couple had seen. It had to be a puma. I don't mind if tomorrow someone takes a picture which proves this wrong but at the moment there are no other explanations for what these people are seeing. It has got to be big cats.
'FOR me, we have gone beyond the argument of 'are they in this country or not?' - a lynx was found in Cricklewood, in London recently - and have moved onto trying to assess their status and what effect they are having."
Some advocates of big cat existence suggest the large number of sightings indicate an established and growing population but Mr Bond is unconvinced.
The animals seem to have appeared when tough new laws in the 1970s placed rigorous restrictions on private animal collectors, leading to some owners releasing big cats into the wild, but Mr Bond does not believe they have become a viable population since.
Mr Bond, who says big cats can live up 12-15 years and believes some are still being kept illegally, says: "There have been reports of young animals in the North-East but if there is breeding, I do not think there is a lot of it and I do not think there is a large, well-established population.
"The reports to me have trickled in - if there were a larger population I would expect to see many more. I would be surprised if, in 50 years, there are puma, panther or lynx in the North-East countryside."
There is precedent for such a situation. An animal collector released wallabies into the Peak District, in Derbyshire, in the 1930s but they gradually died out, although there are still occasional sightings in the North-East.
Naturalist Kevin O'Hara, of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, a Northumbrian Mammal Group member, believes the sightings are down to continued releases rather than widespread breeding.
He says: " If you were keeping a puma or a leopard you would be unlikely to report it when it escaped, especially if you were keeping it illegally.
"I think there may be the odd animal but, in places like Canada, these creatures have huge ranges half the size of England. The reports from different areas of the North-East could be of the same creature."
Mr O'Hara believes some people mistake creatures like otter and deer for big cats or are swayed because they want to see a puma.
He says: "If you only catch a fleeting glimpse of the animal running through the grass, it is easy to make a wrong identification. I would absolutely love to be in the countryside and have a puma walk across my path. Many people want to have that large carnivore out there. They want to have that mystery.
"But if there were big cats, I would expect more signs, scratching posts, droppings, smell, that kind of thing. Big cats have a strong smell, stronger than a fox, and you know if they are in an area."
Viable or not, tantalising sightings keep coming. A month ago, at 4pm in bright sunshine, a walker of more than 30 years' experience was approaching a bell-pit, part of the old mine workings in Upper Nidderdale, North Yorkshire.
The man, who is from the Harrogate area and asked not to be identified, says: "This creature walked out of the bell-pit ten yards away and looked me straight in the eyes. It was saying 'I am not frightened of you.' I have never felt scared before but I was scared then. It didn't run away and just sloped back into the pit."
He is convinced it was a bobcat, a form of lynx, and because it was so fat believes it was pregnant. Normally, bobcats live in North America and Canada but there have been rumours over recent years of them being illegally released in North Yorkshire.
The man says: "Visibility was good when I saw the creature. I can say for definite that there are bobcats in the Yorkshire Dales."

Monday 10 & Tuesday, 11 October 2005

Bones rewrite history of lynx

ANIMAL bones found in a Yorkshire Dales cave have overturned theories on the extinction of a British big cat.
Experts had believed the lynx disappeared from the nation's countryside more than 4,000 years ago when the climate became wetter and cooler.
But carbon dating on bones found in a cave near Settle, North Yorkshire, suggests the cats were still around 1,500 years ago in Roman times.
Archaeologists now believe the lynx could have been hunted to extinction or lost their territory as farming intensified and woodland was chopped down.
The bones were discovered about 100 years ago in Moughton Fell Fissure Cave, near Settle, but have only just been carbon dated.
The cave was destroyed by quarrying in the late 19th Century.
The tests were funded by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
The authority's senior conservation archaeologist Robert White said: "The findings do surprise us in that the lynx became extinct 2,500 years later than we thought.
"The results also provide more evidence to suggest that the landscape was rather more wooded than was previously thought because the lynx like woodland to hunt in."
The Eurasian lynx still inhabits areas of mainland Europe. The cats grow up to 125cm from nose to tail and an adult male can weigh more than 20kg.
Lynx have a distinctive tuft of black hair at the tip of their ears.
The results of the carbon dating will be published today by the Quaternary Research Association.
The report was co-written by Tom Lord, a farmer from nearby Langcliffe. He believes the lynx lived between AD80 and AD320.
He said: "What this means is that you can be fairly certain that the lynx became extinct in the medieval period due to humans."
Nine of the 25 British caves that have yielded lynx bones are in the Yorkshire Dales area.
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:01 pm

Friday 23rd June 2006

Tiger alert

POLICE have warned farmers and villagers to be on their guard amid reports that a tiger is on the loose.
Two people called police after seeing the animal in North Yorkshire last week.
One of the calls came from a woman in her 30s who was driving to work. She said the animal leapt over a fence and crossed the road in front of her.
The second report came from a farmer who spotted the animal on his land.
Police dispatched search teams to the area around Church Fenton, near Tadcaster. A spotter plane from RAF Linton-on-Ouse, near York, was also called in to help with the hunt, but no trace of the big cat has been found.
Officers have now warned farmers to look out for disappearing livestock.
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said the big cat was reported at 9.45am last Friday.
He said: "A woman telephoned to say she had seen a tiger cross the road in front of her van.
"She was shaken, she said it was a big animal and that it had stripes.
"We searched the area but found no physical sign of the animal. There was no paw prints or spoor."
He said there had been no report of a missing tiger made to the police and stressed that there is no solid evidence that the animal is a tiger.
"We do not dispute what the woman said. If we gain any more reports we will step up the search a degree," he added.
Paul Westwood, of the Big Cat Monitoring Organisation, said he has interviewed the woman involved.
He believes the animal could be an 18-month old cub.
"If it is a tiger it is probably a cub which has grown too big and been released into the wild illegally," he said.
"People get them as status symbols then release them when they get too big to control.
"A young tiger can teach itself to hunt - and will have a go at anything that moves."
Police have urged anyone who sees a dangerous animal that is not indigenous to the UK not to approach it, and to call them immediately.

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Farmers on alert over big cat sightings

SIGHTINGS of a mysterious big cat wandering the countryside of North Yorkshire are on the increase.
Farmers were put on alert and countryside around Tadcaster was searched after a number of sightings of the animal.
However, it appears the "beast" is moving over a larger territory than first thought.
Ruth Warren, from Tockwith, said she saw a panther-like creature twice while out walking her dog.
She said: "It was absolutely beautiful, very graceful with a long body. I couldn't believe my eyes.
"I didn't report it because I thought nobody was going to believe me."
David Ison, of York, said he saw the creature about two weeks ago while on the train to Manchester.
He said: "I was looking out of the window as I do every morning, we were somewhere between York and Garforth - I think it was Church Fenton.
"I was watching what I thought was a large dog, but the way it was jumping - it was more or less pouncing as it ran, lurching from its back legs.
"I was probably about 100 yards away but it looked to be about 4ft or 5ft long. It looked from a distance like it was a creamy, fawn colour; I couldn't determine any stripes, but it was obvious that it was not a dog.
"When I got to my office, I told my colleagues what I had seen and there were a few raised eyebrows."
The British Big Cats Society says there are about five sightings a day of giant felines across the country.
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:02 pm

Wednesday 14th March 2007

Panther sighting reported

A BLACK panther has been seen prowling a remote hillside in the Yorkshire Dales, according to reports. Day-tripper David Sykes said he saw the animal between Beckermonds and Deepdale, in Langstrothdale, between Hawes and Buckden, on Sunday.
Mr Sykes had gone for a drive with his wife, Jeanette, when he noticed a 5ft-long, jet-black creature out of the car window.
The 48-year-old kitchen designer from Thackley, near Bradford, said: "I looked to my right and saw this black object running through the field.
"I thought it was a sheepdog, but then it turned and I saw it in profile.
"I nudged my wife and I said 'look at that -it's a big cat'.
"We pulled in to the side of the road, got out and we must have been watching it for five minutes.
"It followed the stream down, coming towards us with its tail lofting in the air.
"My wife commented on how big its head was compared to its body."
Mr Sykes said he was annoyed with himself for not carrying a camera.
He said: "It was a bright sunny day and we got a clear view of it. We did not mistake it for anything else -in my mind it was a black panther or something similar.
"It was one of those experiences that you do not know how to describe -it was a 'wow' moment."
Mr Sykes has reported the sighting to police, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the Big Cat Society.
A spokesman for the park authority said the report of a big cat roaming the park was the first received.
He said: "Our rangers will keep their eyes open."
Tony Lidgate, from North Yorkshire Police, urged anyone who saw a big cat to call the police as soon as possible.
He said: "Whenever we can, we get out and have a look.
"There are several sightings every year in the county, but we have not yet found any concrete evidence."


Tuesday 7th August 2007

Is beast back on prowl?

A MYSTERIOUS big cat that was the subject of folklore in years gone by has made a return after it was seen by a motorist last month.
Paul Ryder, from Evenwood, Country Durham, says he saw a large dark cat on the outskirts of West Auckland, near Bishop Auckland, on the evening of July 9.
The sighting sparked memories among local people of tales of the Beast of Bishop, which roamed the fields several years ago.
Last month's sighting by Mr Ryder was at about 9.50pm in a field next to the new West Auckland bypass, and he pulled into the nearby Pennine Way garage to take a closer look.
He said: "The cat was walking across a field with its head down, pausing every now and then to look around.
"As it got about two-thirds of the way across the fields, it hopped across a ditch and back over again.
"I do not think my girlfriend believed me, but I have no doubt whatsoever that what I saw was a big cat of some sort."
Mr Ryder said the cat was about 1.2 metres long, not including a long tail, which hung low to the ground and curled upwards.
Nigel Binks, the owner of the Pennine Way garage, said: "There have been rumours around here for ages about a cat, or the Beast of Bishop.
"Farmers say it has attacked sheep and people say they saw a big black cat.
"We have never seen anything here, but then again, we have never been around here at 10 o'clock at night."
Sightings in the area are not uncommon. In 2002, police launched an unfruitful investigation into sightings of a puma in Barnard Castle.
Fur and paw marks found near the carcass of a sheep near Whorlton, in Teesdale, several years ago, were found to belong to a puma. This year, according to the Big Cats in Britain Group, there have been six reported sightings of cats in County Durham.
In June, a jogger in Hartlepool said they saw a large cat's head poking out of a grass verge. Another cat was seen on June 4 in Penshaw, County Durham, by a cyclist.
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:03 pm

Thursday 31st January 2008

Big cats group says MoD officials are hushing up death

THE Ministry of Defence has hushed up the death of a so-called "big cat", it was claimed last night.
Unveiling statistics for last year, the Big Cats in Britain group, which looks into sightings, said it was investigating an incident near RAF Fylingdales, on the North York Moors.
Mark Fraser, of Big Cats in Britain, said there were two sightings of big cats within seven days near the base.
Both were said to have been hit and killed by motorists, one of which involved a Ministry of Defence (MoD) vehicle. Mr Fraser said a witness came forward to say the body of one of the animals was subsequently seen on the base.
He said the group tried to contact the MoD about the incident, but was told there was no truth in it.
Mr Fraser said: "They are denying this and you have to ask what is the cover-up here? The holy grail in these investigations is a body, and if the MoD have a body, we would like to know about it."
Mr Fraser said the discovery of such dead animals was often concealed by authorities so as not to cause panic.
He said farmers whose animals had been killed would also be entitled to claim for compensation.
Last night, the MoD had no comment to make on the group's claims.
Meanwhile, Big Cats in Britain said it was now averaging three big cat sightings a day nationwide.
The group logged 675 sightings last year, with Yorkshire topping the list with 64 -31 in North Yorkshire.
There were nine in County Durham, seven in Cleveland and one in the Tyne and Wear area.
Experts said the region was a hotspot for sightings of mainly large black cats - the most famous being the Durham Puma.
Recent sightings include one in May last year, when welder John Tordoff said he saw a panther in Sherburn, about ten miles from Scarborough.
In March last year, a panther was seen walking along a remote hillside in the Yorkshire Dales.
The animal was spotted by day trippers David and Jeanette Sykes in Langstrothdale, between Hawes and Buckden.
Other sightings were made last year near Whitby and in Ryedale.
The presence of big cats has been partly blamed on the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in 1976.
The act brought in restrictions on dangerous wild animals being kept as pets, leading some private zoo owners to abandon such creatures into the countryside, where it is thought some may have bred.
Mr Fraser said the number of sightings of such animals was growing, but said that may be down to the willingness of the public to come forward.
He said: "The ridicule factor in this is disappearing fast and people are happier to come forward and report them.


Wednesday 2nd July 2008

Big cat spotted stalking prey in woodland

RSPCA inspectors are investigating reports of a big cat sighting.
Pamela Cromar, of Richmond, in North Yorkshire, spotted the cat from her home, in the town's Reeth Road, last week.
Mrs Cromar said the creature was stalking prey in woodland.
She said: "It was too big to be a domestic cat or dog. My friend and I saw it across the river from us, it was going after a deer.
"I did not feel in any danger, as it was quite a distance away from us, and it seemed intent on catching its prey.
"I wanted to get indoors fairly quickly after I saw it, though."
Mrs Cromar said she had reported the creature to the RSPCA and the police.
The creature is described as having black fur, and a long tail, about 20in.
An RSPCA spokeswoman said sightings could be reported to the organisation's 24-hour advice line, on 0300-123-4999.
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:04 pm

Tuesday 6th January 2009

Big cats caught on camera

TWO big cats have been caught on thermal imaging cameras stalking deer in a British forest, a Government agency confirmed last night.
Under a Freedom of Information Act request, the Forestry Commission confirmed that two ‘‘reliable’’ sightings of large cats have taken place in the last seven years.
Experts monitoring deer using thermal imaging cameras spotted the animals on two separate occasions in different parts of the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.
Commission spokesman Stuart Burgess said the sightings had been confirmed by ‘‘very experienced’’ rangers unlikely to mistake deer for big cats.
He said today: ‘‘Both were observed in low light, using heat-activated vision equipment while they were carrying out a deer census. The colour of the animals couldn’t be made out, but these are very experienced guys and they know what is and what isn’t a deer. One definitely believed that what he saw was some sort of large cat.’’ The first sighting was at the outskirts of Churchill enclosure, east of Parkend in February 2002. The second was on the southern slopes of Staple Edge in March 2005.
Deputy surveyor Rob Guest, who was present at both sightings, said that his team were ‘‘interested, excited, and surprised’’ when the unmistakable thermal images appeared in the gloom.
He said: ‘‘I couldn’t tell you how big they were or what they were. They were just large, full cats.
‘‘At that time, going back five years, there were lots of sightings and rumours. At the second sighting in 2005, there were a lot of rabbits living in that particular area, and studies have shown that, when cats go wild, rabbits are a major source of their food.’’ Mr Guest, 58, who has worked for the Forestry Commission for 18 years, said these were the only two wild big cats he had seen in his career.
A survey by the British Big Cats Society showed more than 2,000 suspected big cat sightings were reported nationwide between 2004 and 2005.
The North-East and North Yorkshire are favourites for big cat reports.
Besides Gloucestershire, only Devon and Yorkshire recorded more sightings among the English regions during that time. There have also been several credible big cat sightings in County Durham and Northumberland.
Most wild cat sightings are attributed to panthers, with a handful of reports put down to their smaller cousins the lynx, once native in this country.
Their freedom in the wild is attributed to a range of sources from escaped zoo and circus animals to a mass release in the 1970s after the enforcement of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.

Monday 16th February 2009


Investigators meet to unravel mystery of big cat sightings

INVESTIGATORS will look to prove the existence of big cats prowling the region’s countryside at a conference next month.
Investigators from around the UK and Ireland are meeting in Middlesbrough to try to unravel the mystery surrounding many unexplained sightings.
The greatest number of reports received by the Big Cats in Britain (BCIB) group come from the North of England, said conference organiser Mark Fraser.
“The subject of whether or not big cats exist in Britain is a popular one. Nearly everybody knows someone who claims to have seen one of our mysterious felines,” he said.
“It is hoped by these gatherings we can get nearer to the truth and obtain hard evidence of these animals.
“We want to find out if big black panther-like cats, lynx, pumas, really do exist here.”
The BCIB group is holding its third annual conference at the Marton Country Club, in Middlesbrough, over the weekend of March 21 and 22.
Sergeant Eddie Bell, wildlife liaison officer at Durham police, will present results of his 22 years of research.
He said: “I think there are wild-born animals out there, enough to maintain a local population.
“We have had very good sightings from people who should know, like biologists, and also other evidence such as a footprint identified as a puma near Barnard Castle.”
Four years ago he investigated a spate of wild cat sightings, including a puma savaging a full-grown deer.
The creature – believed to be the legendary Durham Puma – had been reported prowling a remote area of east Durham.
The sightings were taken seriously as they coincided with the mysterious death of a deer.
Ian Bond, North-East ecologist of the Northumbrian Mammal Group, said Tynedale was the main focus, with sightings reaching double figures over the past two years.
“But there is also a good cluster of sightings near Whitby and the Trimdon Panther has been sighted again north of Hartlepool recently,”
he said.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that there are some big cats out there, possibly of two or three different species.
“Some of the sightings have been made by excellent naturalists who are unlikely to have got it wrong.”
The BCIB group is appealing for people to contact it with information about sightings, video footage and photographs.
Tickets costing £25 for the weekend or £15 each day are available by calling Mark Fraser on 07766-416211.
For more information, visit the Big Cats in Britain website at bigcatsinbritain.org

Thursday 19th March 2009


Encounters of the big cat kind

As investigators from around the country gather in Middlesbrough for the third Big Cats In Britain conference, North-East ecologist Ian Bond recalls his encounter with the Durham Puma
IT was summer 1999 and I’d just started work as an assistant warden at the Castle Eden Walkway in Stockton. I was making the tea in time-honoured new boy fashion when I was sure I overheard my colleagues joking about a panther.
I’d long been a closet cryptozoologist, reading books on the Yeti and other unknown animals, but I wasn’t in any hurry to publicise the fact. This, however, was too good a chance to miss.
After some tentative questioning from me and a bit of ribbing from them, I found out that a couple of our regulars had claimed to have seen a big cat along the walkway.
I knew the couple they described: they walked their Dalmatian at the walkway early every morning and always waved at us as they were leaving. They were rather embarrassed about their sighting, as good “strange sighting”
witnesses are meant to be.
Only the husband had seen it and there was no way he wanted to speak to the press about it. What had happened was that as they were walking along the main track, he noticed a large, sandy-coloured animal walking down through the trees on one side of the embankment.
He immediately thought “golden retriever”, until it crossed the track about 30 metres in front of him. It was a cat. It had a long tail which swept down to the ground and back up again and needless to say, the “golden retriever”
didn’t trot up to them to sniff the Dalmatian.
Instead it disappeared in a flash up the other embankment and into the wood.
Knowing this chap as we did pretty much ruled out a hoax and, given his description, there wasn’t much doubt that he’d seen a puma. Interestingly, as we found out later, there had been a sighting of a similar creature a few days earlier, about ten miles down the road in Yarm.
Needless to say, over the next few weeks we had a bestiary of “big cat” sightings. We had a tortoiseshell big cat, a big cat that was foxsized and fox-coloured with pointed ears and a long, bushy tail (I kid you not), and the inevitable big, black cat.
We took the details with liberal seasoning.
Until, that is, one Sunday afternoon when another middle-aged couple came into the visitor centre to report a big cat behind a bush.
They explained that they had been going for a walk along with their West Highland terrier when they met a rather anxious young lady hurrying in the opposite direction with a doberman in tow. She told them that her doberman had charged into a bush after something; the something had growled very loudly and the doberman had shot out again, terrified.
Curious as to what it could be, the couple sent their Westie in to investigate. Another loud growl and the Westie came scampering out again.
Perplexed, they continued on their way in “did that really happen?” mode, until they passed the same bush on the way back. Just to check, in went the Westie again. Another loud growl and once again the Westie beat a hasty retreat.
AT this point they thought that they’d better tell someone, marked a cross on the cinder track beside the bush and headed back to the visitor centre.
I had to investigate: a platoon of 100 sponsored walkers had set off in that direction five minutes previously and I couldn’t risk only 99 returning. I grabbed a radio and cast around for something to protect myself with, should I need it.
Our tool cupboard was a bit like the props department for a gladiator movie. We had bill hooks, sickles, forks and big, serrated blades on long poles. I decided on an aluminium litter picker so as not to alarm the public, and set off to find the bush.
On the way I repeated to myself what I’d read about pumas being shy, people-friendly cats; ‘l’amigo del christiano’, according to South American legend. I’d been to a carol service last Christmas, I hoped the puma would realise.
The sponsored walkers had obliterated any sign of a cross on the ground and so I had quite a few bushes to choose from. Each was gingerly inspected with litter picker held at arm’s length.
After prodding numerous bushes, none of which growled at me, I was just getting to the point of thinking I’d been suckered when a noise resonated from the top of the embankment and the phrase “hairs on the back of your arms standing up” ceased to be a cliche.
Now I thought I knew roughly what a puma growling would sound like, but this was much deeper and more alarming than I’d anticipated.
I stood for a while, my turn to wonder if I’d really heard it.
Then it came again, this time further away.
Unfortunately, or was that fortunately, the embankment between me and whatever was making the sound was matted with blackthorn and dog rose. I’d look like I’d been attacked by a puma by the time I’d fought my way through that lot.
There was nothing I could do. It was just one more report to add to the list and, as it transpired, the last report we received.
It was also the last time the Durham Puma was heard of anywhere in the North-East for several years, its place taken by the big, black cat that I came to dub the Trimdon Panther.

Friday, 8 May 2009

But was it wearing a Puma trainer?

SIGHTINGS of the elusive Durham Puma are usually confined to the wilds of Weardale or the depths of the Derwent Valley.
But police were called to investigate reports that the creature was on the loose in the heart of Durham City. Officers received a call that a four-inch paw print had been discovered outside Elvet Methodist Church, possibly attracted by a carton of cream which had been spilled in the car park.
A concerned caller had preserved the scene by covering it with a cardboard box and puma expert Insp Eddie Bell was despatched to investigate and quickly established that the supposed paw was in fact a shoe print.
It is not the first time that Insp Bell’s investigations into the big cat have been dogged by false alarms. In one instance, he was called to pad marks in the snow at Ferryhill which were “large enough to be a lion” but turned out to be a rabbit.
SPECTATOR was left pondering how the world has changed and the mighty laid low following the shift to unitary government.
Over many years under the previous Durham City Council, the City of Durham Trust developed something of a reputation for blocking and objecting to planning schemes for the city, with some planning officers even dreaming up rather disparaging monikers for certain members.
All in all, it had become, for good or ill, renowned.
But when, during a discussion with a source close to County Hall, he raised the thinly veiled criticisms contained in the pages of the trustees’ 67th annual report, the response came along the lines of: And what do they do?

Tuesday 21st July 2009

The tracks of the Puma

For as long as I've been editor, there have been stories allegedly proving the existence of the elusive Durham Puma.
Once, my assistant editor came into news conference with a photograph sent in by a reader, claiming it to be the first photographic proof of Durham's big cat.
Under forensic examination, it turned out to be a pyjama case, in the form of a lion, from Marks & Spencer.
Tomorrow is yet another chapter in the Durham Puma saga. Huge paw prints have been discovered by a walker close to the River Tees at Winston, near Barnard Castle.
We have a photograph of the paw print and a tape measure showing it to be three-and-a-half inches in length.
What else could it be except the Durham Puma? The assistant editor, who narrowly escaped being sacked after the pyjama case incident, is all of a dither.
It is also the subject of tomorrow morning's Headline Game on TFM radio.
Our headline is "Paws for thought". I'm 2-1 up on the week and I'm feline confident.


Wednesday 22nd July 2009


Huge paw prints may be latest evidence of mythical Durham Puma

THE huge paw prints run across a muddy field close to a wooded riverbank.
Three-and-a-half inches in length, they also show deep claw marks – and may be the latest evidence to prove the existence of the mythical Durham Puma.

Sightings of the legendary big cat have been reported numerous times over the past two decades, but the latest prints are the first to be spotted in several years.
They were found by a walker close to the River Tees at Winston, near Barnard Castle at the weekend.
“I spotted them on the ground, it was so big I could not miss it,” said the man, who asked to remain anonymous.
“I had a look over my shoulder in case the thing which made it was still nearby.
“I’d heard of the Durham Puma before, and it’s the only thing I can think of that would explain tracks like these.”
Other witnesses have come forward since the tracks were found.
Angler Roger Pedleham, 43, a wholesale flower merchant, of Darlington, said he had a close encounter with the beast four years ago during a fishing trip.
“The first thing I noticed was a big long tail that was totally unmistakable. It was about two-and-a-half to three foot tall.
“I could tell by the way it walked that it was a cat. My heart was absolutely pounding.
“It was following the field edge and it was very black, like a black panther.”
He was reluctant to report his sighting, but when others claimed to have seen the puma he broke his silence.
In 1995. a dung sample was examined by Dr Hans Kruuk, a carnivore specialist at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, in Aberdeen, who concluded it was “ puma or leopard droppings”.
Retired police constable and member of Horton Angling Club, Bob Walker, 51, of Darlington, said he too has faced the big cat.
“It came to the edge of the bank, stopped and looked at me and I looked at it and then it ran off back to the treeline.
I nearly jumped out of my skin.”
This latest evidence has backed the view of Inspector Eddie Bell, of Durham Police, who has logged reports of big cats in the area since the first murky sighting in Thinford, near Spennymoor, in 1986.
Insp Bell believes there are up to 15 big cats, the size of a large doberman, on the loose in the county.
“There is no doubt now that there is something out there.
“It is a big cat and hopefully tests will reveal exactly what type of cat.’’

Thursday 13th August 2009


Big cat filmed near Barnard Castle

INTRIGUING footage has emerged allegedly showing a big cat prowling the County Durham countryside.
The clip shows a black animal moving slowly across the corner of a field.
A DVD containing the footage was handed to The Northern Echo this week by a County Durham resident.
During the two-minute video, the cameraman can be heard speculating that the animal is hunting rabbits and discussing being attacked by it.
At one point the animal stops and turns towards the camera, causing the operator to say: “Keep still.”
The man, who does not want to be named, handed over the disc claiming it was taken by a dog walker in the Eighties near a copse behind the Glaxo plant, in Barnard Castle.
He said: “The man had been walking past the copse for two weeks previously and his dog wouldn’t go anywhere near it.
“On this morning, he saw the cat and ran back to his house to get the camera and his wife.”
Experts have speculated for more than a decade that remote areas of the North-East and North Yorkshire are home to pumas, panthers and lynx.
If the footage is genuine, it would be the first time a wild big cat has been caught on camera in the region.
However, opinion is divided on the type of animal seen on the film.
Although the source who handed over the footage is convinced it features a big cat, North-East ecologist Ian Bond is less sure.
Mr Bond, who has compiled evidence of big cat sightings across the region, said: “It had me going for a few seconds but then I saw it up against the grass, which will only be a couple of feet high.”
Mr Bond admitted the animal looked to have a stocky body, however he concluded: “I think it’s just a very large cat.”
He added that the animal could not be the legendary Durham Puma as pumas are brown not black.
“It would have to be a panther,” he said.
Danny Bamping, from the British Big Cats Society, has described the North-East as a “hotspot” for big cat sightings.
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:06 pm

The Journal

Jan 14 2009 by Tony Henderson,

Search for lynx in wild cat sightings

HUNDREDS of big cat sightings in the North East will come under scrutiny at a special conference in the region.
The event aims to collate all the sightings and to build up a regionwide database of big cat activity.
One of the speakers, Durham police inspector Eddie Bell, has taken a personal interest in the issue.
He has gathered around 450 claimed sightings of big cats – puma and lynx – over the last 22 years, mainly in County Durham.
He said: “I think there are wild-born animals out there – enough to maintain a local population.
“We have had very good sightings from people who should know, like biologists, and also other evidence such as a footprint identified as a puma near Barnard Castle.”
Insp Bell estimates the North East big cat population as “more than two but fewer than 12.”
He said that big cats kept as pets were released after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 made it illegal to keep them without a licence.
The Derwent Valley in County Durham has been a hot spot for sightings.
County Durham ecologist Ian Bond will also speak at the conference in March.
He has kept a wild cat diary for the Northumbria Mammal Group for the past eight years, which now numbers more than 100 sightings.
He said there have been clusters of sightings in Tynedale in Northumberland, in Weardale and Barnard Castle, and in the Hartlepool-Trimdon-Sedgefield area.
“The focus now seems to be in the Tynedale area with sightings in double figures in the last two years,” he said.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that there are some big cats out there, possibly of two or three different species.
“Sightings have been made by excellent naturalists who would not have got it wrong.”
It is considered that there is no danger to people from any big cats, with no instances of any attack or threat.
An estimated 20,000 roe deer in the North East means that there is abundant food supply.
“There is also no shortage of rabbits. Conditions are fine for big cats which are hardy animals, with bags of food and quite a lot of woodland to hide away,” said Mr Bond.
Incidents
BIG cat claims have included:
A mother and cub seen three years ago at Elwick, near Hartlepool, and another sighting by a farm worker in the same area two years ago
A road kill dead lynx in a roadside ditch near Hexham in 2007
A big cat spotted at the roadside by a police car driver near Hexham, which loped away as the vehicle’s video was being switched on
The most recent incident was from Slaley Forest in Northumberland
Droppings found at Whorlton near Barnard Castle were sent for analysis and confirmed as big cat.
Appeal for witnesses
AN appeal was made yesterday for people who think they have seen big cats to contact the conference organisers.
The aim is to make a video of people’s experiences to show at the event.
The conference Big Cats in Britain – The Witnesses Speak, will run from March 20-22 at Marton Country Club and Hotel on Teesside.
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by ChrisJH » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:06 pm

The Journal

Mar 2 2010 by Tony Henderson

Wildlife expert Ian Bond says big cats prevalent across North

WILDLIFE expert Ian Bond will tonight explore the conviction that panthers are living wild in the North East.
Ian, who is Hartlepool Council’s ecologist, has been logging big cat sightings for the last 10 years.
A member of the Northumbria Mammal group, he has recorded around 150 sightings which have been made at close quarters.
Tonight at 7pm in South Shields library, Ian will give a public talk on the big cats speculation.
The most recent sighting was two weeks ago near Craster in Northumberland as a fisherman was returning home in the early hours of the morning when what looked like a big cat ran out 25 yards in front of his car.
Ian said that hotspots for sightings, usually of a black panther-type big cat, included the Hexham-Consett zone and Sedgefield-Trimdon area in County Durham.
He said: “I record sightings made by people from fairly close quarters and I tend to dismiss those which could be some other creature.
“I am convinced there is something out there. I have no doubts whatsoever that there is the odd animal.”
Sightings had been made by “reputable” observers such as policemen and an ecologist who twice had close-range encounters in Weardale.
That sightings have been made over a wide area, from Berwick to Hartlepool, suggested that there is more than one animal.
It is believed that the animals could be escapees or had been released after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act made it necessary for big cat owners to apply for a licence and regular vets’ examinations.
Ian said that food for wild big cats would be no problem, with plentiful supplies of prey like roe deer and rabbits.
“The issue is whether these cats can find each other and breed, and we will know the answer over time,” he said. Notable encounters have included a panther mother and cub at Elwick, near Hartlepool, and two anglers on the River Skerne near Darlington who came across a big cat.
“They ran in one direction and the animal ran off in the other,” said Ian.
Recent sightings have included:
A big cat 2ft in height at Souter Point in South Shields;
A man walking at Croft, near Darlington, who saw a deer heading towards him at speed, pursued by a large black creature a couple of feet behind
A woman walking her dogs beside the river near Morpeth when a large black animal ran in front of them and scaled a wall;
A big cat of around 5ft in length was seen between Newton Moor and Longframlington in Northumberland.
The observer returned to the area the next day and found a deer leg bone.
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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by messy » Tue Jul 04, 2017 5:21 am

I've been looking into Big Cats for some time now and since moving to the North East have been really surprised how many reports seem to come from this region. To be honest I'd heard of the Durham Puma years ago, but until quite recently thought that the North East was one of the lowest areas in terms of number of reports. Northumberland seems to be, at least. For a region that has miles and miles of remote countryside with thick forests like Kielder and Simonside, there seems to be virtually nothing. It's a surprise especially when you consider there are numerous recent reports a hundred or so miles north in Scotland. At a push, there were a small cluster of reports from Morpeth a couple of years ago that at least raised the possibility of a big cat passing through, but they didn't last long. In North Tyneside there has been a big cat seen in the Killingworth/Seghill/Seaton Delaval area that initially quite excited me, but the culprit was an (admittedly oversized) domestic cat. It even had a collar. That one was completely debunked really, which I found disappointing but not overly surprising.

But now, for the last three or four years, there have been a regular stream of reports from the Darlington, Sedgefield, Hartlepool area to the point where I think I'm right in saying that over the last few years the region is second only to the Stroud valleys in terms of Uk 'hot spots'

A particular area of interest is the Castle Eden Walkway near Sedgefield, where there are constant reports. If you go into the visitor centre, a black panther is even listed as one of the 'animals you may see'. It's all a bit tongue in cheek, but speaking to people around there, there is a genuine conviction among people that at least one big cat frequents the Castle Eden, Wynyard, Trimdon, Hurworth Burn area. It's been seen next to the A1, by a lake, in the country park, near Trimdon and Fishburne village. People all seem to know of someone who's seen it, or have heard about it. I found that so fascinating - and so markedly different to when I've researched in Stroud, Cannock Chase, South Wales - there, for every person with a story you'd have ten others who thought it was a load of utter rubbish. In this region, I'd say probably it's half and half, or a bit more. Farmers, gamekeepers, local residents - I'm not pretending to have gone door to door or anything because I'd be sectioned, but I've done quite a lot of research into it and I was relatively convinced. There was something there.

Then I actually think I saw "it" at Castle Eden. I live in the region now, albeit miles away, but when I'm on holiday I'd been making a point of exploring the area with the dog just out of interest. So I reckon I've spent a fair bit of time there, not to mention spoken to some really interesting people along the way. I was walking down the main path all of quarter of a mile from the main car park, when a strange looking animal stood in front of me. At first it was too far away to really identify much, and I thought it was a deer, but for once my dog didn't ruin things by startling it, and it just stayed there, standing, as I got closer. It had its back to me, but wasn't black - more dark grey, muscular looking, surprisingly "leggy" and with a properly tiny head, ridiculously tiny. It had a long tail and as it turned was clearly a cat. I was shocked and euphoric at once, I actually couldn't believe what I was seeing. You go looking for something like this, it's an unwritten rule that you just don't see it. You speak to people who have, but you never actually see it. Too good to be true. Amazing. It slowly wandered into a hedge. I saw it very, very clearly.

The doubts crept in when I got to the hedge and realised it was 1. Not very big, and 2. Not very big. It LOOKED big. It was clearly bigger than the kind of moggie that crosses the road in front of your car as you drive into your street. But it was nowhere near the size to be a 'big cat'. It also didn't remotely follow any of the conventions of a recognised breed. It wasn't a black panther, a puma, a lynx, nothing like any of them. It was strange.

I read other reports where people recounted a strange, long legged 'thing' that looked a bit like the shape of a dorberman but had a cats head. And thought that this was probably exactly the same snimsl I'd seen. But to my mind it's not anything more than a reasonably large, very odd looking feral cat.

I'm not saying there's nothing there, but I'm fairly sure this is where the reports have come from, at least at Castle Eden. I spoke to a guy who frequents the place weeks later, who had exactly the same view - that the park is home to a number of oversize feral cats, and that's all that people are seeing.

It's a bit disappointing I guess, but will keep looking.

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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by sensesonfire » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:31 pm

messy wrote:I've been looking into Big Cats for some time now and since moving to the North East have been really surprised how many reports seem to come from this region. To be honest I'd heard of the Durham Puma years ago, but until quite recently thought that the North East was one of the lowest areas in terms of number of reports. Northumberland seems to be, at least. For a region that has miles and miles of remote countryside with thick forests like Kielder and Simonside, there seems to be virtually nothing. It's a surprise especially when you consider there are numerous recent reports a hundred or so miles north in Scotland. At a push, there were a small cluster of reports from Morpeth a couple of years ago that at least raised the possibility of a big cat passing through, but they didn't last long. In North Tyneside there has been a big cat seen in the Killingworth/Seghill/Seaton Delaval area that initially quite excited me, but the culprit was an (admittedly oversized) domestic cat. It even had a collar. That one was completely debunked really, which I found disappointing but not overly surprising.

But now, for the last three or four years, there have been a regular stream of reports from the Darlington, Sedgefield, Hartlepool area to the point where I think I'm right in saying that over the last few years the region is second only to the Stroud valleys in terms of Uk 'hot spots'

A particular area of interest is the Castle Eden Walkway near Sedgefield, where there are constant reports. If you go into the visitor centre, a black panther is even listed as one of the 'animals you may see'. It's all a bit tongue in cheek, but speaking to people around there, there is a genuine conviction among people that at least one big cat frequents the Castle Eden, Wynyard, Trimdon, Hurworth Burn area. It's been seen next to the A1, by a lake, in the country park, near Trimdon and Fishburne village. People all seem to know of someone who's seen it, or have heard about it. I found that so fascinating - and so markedly different to when I've researched in Stroud, Cannock Chase, South Wales - there, for every person with a story you'd have ten others who thought it was a load of utter rubbish. In this region, I'd say probably it's half and half, or a bit more. Farmers, gamekeepers, local residents - I'm not pretending to have gone door to door or anything because I'd be sectioned, but I've done quite a lot of research into it and I was relatively convinced. There was something there.

Then I actually think I saw "it" at Castle Eden. I live in the region now, albeit miles away, but when I'm on holiday I'd been making a point of exploring the area with the dog just out of interest. So I reckon I've spent a fair bit of time there, not to mention spoken to some really interesting people along the way. I was walking down the main path all of quarter of a mile from the main car park, when a strange looking animal stood in front of me. At first it was too far away to really identify much, and I thought it was a deer, but for once my dog didn't ruin things by startling it, and it just stayed there, standing, as I got closer. It had its back to me, but wasn't black - more dark grey, muscular looking, surprisingly "leggy" and with a properly tiny head, ridiculously tiny. It had a long tail and as it turned was clearly a cat. I was shocked and euphoric at once, I actually couldn't believe what I was seeing. You go looking for something like this, it's an unwritten rule that you just don't see it. You speak to people who have, but you never actually see it. Too good to be true. Amazing. It slowly wandered into a hedge. I saw it very, very clearly.

The doubts crept in when I got to the hedge and realised it was 1. Not very big, and 2. Not very big. It LOOKED big. It was clearly bigger than the kind of moggie that crosses the road in front of your car as you drive into your street. But it was nowhere near the size to be a 'big cat'. It also didn't remotely follow any of the conventions of a recognised breed. It wasn't a black panther, a puma, a lynx, nothing like any of them. It was strange.

I read other reports where people recounted a strange, long legged 'thing' that looked a bit like the shape of a dorberman but had a cats head. And thought that this was probably exactly the same snimsl I'd seen. But to my mind it's not anything more than a reasonably large, very odd looking feral cat.

I'm not saying there's nothing there, but I'm fairly sure this is where the reports have come from, at least at Castle Eden. I spoke to a guy who frequents the place weeks later, who had exactly the same view - that the park is home to a number of oversize feral cats, and that's all that people are seeing.

It's a bit disappointing I guess, but will keep looking.


G'Day Messy,

Welcome to the forum. I believe the UK has the same problem with ''Big Cats'' as Australia, probably even more so because up until the DANGEROUS WILD ANIMALS ACT 1976 it was pretty much open policy to keep dangerous exotic animals. No doubt animals like panthers, cougars, leopards have escaped enclosures over time and have eluded the authorities and with plenty of livestock to sustain them they have thrived. I think even a lion or two have been seen wandering the beautiful UK countryside although they were detained before they decided on a human meal.

I live in Western Australia and reported sightings of big cats are not uncommon. I have experienced two episodes of big cat audio but no visual contact, it was night time in the bush and the sounds were in very close proximity and these growls were definitely not from feral cats. A guy I know is a ranger in the Forestry Department and he experienced an eerie feeling of being stalked while wandering along a gravel track in dense forest. He turned around just in time to see a very large black cat slink back into thick undergrowth, they are masters of stealth.

Anyway, good work, keep up your investigations.

Cheers.
Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream.

Edgar Allan Poe.

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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by messy » Sat Jul 08, 2017 3:51 am

I've read quite a bit on the Australian situation and it does seem very similar. Hasn't it been proven that there are massive ferals in Oz too?

Personally I find it quite hard to believe that the cats people are seeing are actual melanistic leopards. Maybe a few of them escaped after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, but full breeding populations I find impossible to believe unless the number of releases was way, way higher than people thought, and for them still to be alive after 40 years? I favour some kind of hybrid theory. That maybe some of those releases bred with ferals or something. And now what we have is a small, but increasing population of huge feral cats maybe with some kind of 'big cat' ancestry in there, maybe not but still getting bigger and bigger for whatever reason. I reckon in the seventies there were without doubt a number of pumas released after the DWW act, the mystery is how those releases led to the (mainly black) cats that are being reported in the present day.

Dunno. But I'm certain there's something out there in both countries. What's interesting in the UK is how the reports seem to shift around. First, the puma releases - Surrey, Durham. Then the Beast of Bodmin; the Beast of Dartmoor, the South West basically. Then in the early 00s a massive number of reports in Gloucestershire (Forest of Dean, Stroud), now a spate of reports from Hartlepool/Sedgefield and St Albans. Would be interesting to know how widespread the reports are in Australia. In the U.K. it seems to shift around between regions over time.

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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by sensesonfire » Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:01 pm

messy wrote:I've read quite a bit on the Australian situation and it does seem very similar. Hasn't it been proven that there are massive ferals in Oz too?

Personally I find it quite hard to believe that the cats people are seeing are actual melanistic leopards. Maybe a few of them escaped after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, but full breeding populations I find impossible to believe unless the number of releases was way, way higher than people thought, and for them still to be alive after 40 years? I favour some kind of hybrid theory. That maybe some of those releases bred with ferals or something. And now what we have is a small, but increasing population of huge feral cats maybe with some kind of 'big cat' ancestry in there, maybe not but still getting bigger and bigger for whatever reason. I reckon in the seventies there were without doubt a number of pumas released after the DWW act, the mystery is how those releases led to the (mainly black) cats that are being reported in the present day.

Dunno. But I'm certain there's something out there in both countries. What's interesting in the UK is how the reports seem to shift around. First, the puma releases - Surrey, Durham. Then the Beast of Bodmin; the Beast of Dartmoor, the South West basically. Then in the early 00s a massive number of reports in Gloucestershire (Forest of Dean, Stroud), now a spate of reports from Hartlepool/Sedgefield and St Albans. Would be interesting to know how widespread the reports are in Australia. In the U.K. it seems to shift around between regions over time.

I would imagine if a number of different exotic big cats did escape or were released in Britain then you are eventually going to end up with inter-breeding possibly why the descriptions of these cats can sometimes be a little confusing.
Reports here in Australia vary from state to state, in the west it is predominately the south-west, a vast area with a lot of open paddocks as well as heavy forested areas. As well as big cats an increasing number of Thylacine sightings are being reported one very recently filmed galloping across a paddock in South Australia. I lived in a rural district throughout the 90's where we had a number of reports and sightings to the point people were forming groups to go searching for them.

I have two very big questions/queries 1. Why did reports fade away significantly towards the late 1990's/2000's
2. These big cat sightings have been reported for years so I believe the numbers would have increased through continual breeding to the point we would be hearing and seeing these creatures more often instead of the diminishing reports that seem to be happening. I don't know the position in the UK but I would imagine it is the same as here with all these years to improve their numbers we should be seeing a lot more of them.
Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream.

Edgar Allan Poe.

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Re: So - have we got Big Cats in the NE of England

Unread post by messy » Tue Jul 11, 2017 5:42 am

I think the most likely explanation for the reports fading away in the late 1990s is that the animals died. If we're thinking that in the UK at least the sightings were the result of released pets after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act came into force, then it all makes sense really. Twenty years or so, the upper end of the lifespan of a big cat. It also explains why the early-mid 90s saw such a spate of reports from Bodmin, Exmoor, Dartmoor, Durham, Malvern - the animals by then were getting old, slow and more likely to be seen as a result.

I suspect there are two distinct parts to the whole mystery. Firstly, the releases, living wild in the U.K. when their owners couldn't afford to get a licence for them. Late seventies to mid nineties. They survived nicely for a while - plenty to eat, rarely seen because we were only talking a handful of individual animals across the country. Then they died, and the reports stopped. Mystery over.

Now, these 'black panthers' people keep seeing, increasing in regularity, sometimes not even slightly matching a known species of cat, distinct hotspots in Gloucestershire, County Durham and Scotland. Reports from the old hotspot - Devon, Cornwall, the West Country - pretty much having died out. These are the ones where it's a proper, genuine mystery for me. Is there any link between the two parts? Part of me thinks it's unlikely, and we're just seeing bigger and bigger feral cats, but part of me really wonders if there has to be a link there.

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