Tuesday, 25 November 2003

Big Cats in England?

My recent visit to Patagonia further confirmed my incredulity at the idea of big cats living wild in England. I spent several days on the Estancia La Esperanza, the ranch owned and managed by the WLT’s partner, the FundaciĆ³n Patagonia Natural. Each day I went out with the reserve’s manager, Gustavo Zamora. He knows the ranch well. Very well indeed, and each day we found footprints of puma, and we also located a recent puma kill of a guanaco (wild llama). He finds a kill of guanaco or sheep almost every week, and can find fresh footprints and scats any day. But still, after three years living and working on the ranch has yet to see a living puma. There are also several scientists studying the guanaco, who spend hours and hours most days watching the guanacos and other wildlife, but they have never seen the pumas.

So it is bizarre how in England sightings of these beasts are more common than the other evidence they leave behind. And the habitat in Patagonia is extremely open -- low bushy steppe and desert, with few places to hide, unlike most of the places in England where these alleged pumas are reported. But the Beasts o Exmoor, Bodmin and Surrey live on, just like their ancestors, the Hound of the Baskervilles and the Black Dog of Bungay -- rural myths to compete with the Alligators of the New York Sewers.


  1. Endemol / Five have launched a new website at www.bigcatsearch.co.uk to help promote an initiative to find out the truth about big cats in the UK.

    Naturalist Nick Baker is going in search of Britain's big cats and he needs the public's help. For almost a century, there have been numerous reports of big cats in Britain but there is very little documented evidence to support such claims. Five is looking for possibe case studies and is on a quest to find the big cats that have so far evaded the cameras.

    The new website, launched in late June 2006, will offer a wealth of information on big cats in the UK and will allow users to submit details of their own sightings. Over the course of the summer, five hopes to build a dossier of sightings which will be reviewed by big cat experts and provide the source material for an exciting new TV show to be broadcast later in the year.

    If you have seen a big cat, or know anybody who has, log on to www.bigcatsearch.co.uk to find out more.

  2. Sightings of big black animals go way back, much further than a century. Locally to the World Land Trust the most famous is "Black Shuck" a dog-like animal the size of a cow. What is bizarre is that there would appear to be an inverse ratio of sightings of big cats to the numbers being kept in captivity privately.

    I can only reiterate what I have written on numerous occasions, and remind Nick Baker, that in places where big cats do occur (particularly pumas) they are very rarely see, but their prey remains scats and footprints are often easily found -- the reverse situation in England.

    The other curious fact is that nearly all sightings of alleged big cats are made by non-naturalists -- again the rerse of what should be expected.

  3. A couple of years ago I saw a big black cat-like animal in a field in Suffolk (very close to where you live, actually). It was a hundred metres away or so, the size of a labrador, but of cat shape and form (long, thin tail), and moving in a cat-like manner. I don't expect it was a panther, but if it was a house cat it was by far the largest one I've ever seen, and if it wasn't a cat, then what on earth was it???