Big Cats In Britain Part One: The Surrey Puma
"Alien big cats" are reported throughout the country (and throughout the world). But all such reports should be treated critically as human perception can be flawed. So what other evidence is there that large big cats wander our woods, fields and sometimes towns? Let's take a look.
There's plenty of video "evidence" on Youtube and the following video is certainly intriguing but only if that fence is 12 foot high. If it's not then this would be the smallest big cat in history.
In 1991 an European Lynx was shot near Great Witchingham, Norfolk. See the picture below.
Many think this animal was an escapee from a zoo or private collection who preyed upon local livestock until it was killed. It does at least show big cats have survived in the wild in the UK before. Another lynx was captured in 2001 and earned the nickname "the Beast of Crinklewood". She's now called Lara and lives at London Zoo.
Across the country in Shropshire, Devon and even on the Isle of Wight Jungle cats and Leopard cats have been shot or run over (on more than a few occasions!) over the last couple of decades. Now these cats aren't "big cats" but they are large ecologically alien cats and it is very interesting to see that they can be found living wild in this country.
The Times carried a story headlined "Puma Cub Caught Near Hospital" on the 28th of October 1976. That same year the Dangerous Wild Animals Act went through Parliament. This act is often cited as a cause for the release of captive animals into the wild in an effort to avoid breaking the law (it wasn't illegal to release them until the eighties). Although my article on the Surrey Puma shows big cat sightings do predate this event, perhaps this is when a larger more widespread population was introduced. In 1980 Ted Noble caught a puma, later named Felicity at Cannich, Inverness-shire, Scotland. This however didn't stop sightings of a large cat that had preceded her capture and they carried on as she lived out her days as a tourist attraction at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kinguisse. Another incident happened in Greenwich Park (just a few minutes walk from where I sit typing this) in 1987 when police shot a puma near the famous Greenwich Observatory.
Big cats mark their territory in a number of ways including tree scratching. Check out some pictures from Surrey here.
Worrying footage can be found about 7 minutes into this video. Part one of this documentary can be found here. I'm not big on conspiracy theories (as you, Dear Constant Reader, know) but I'm at a loss to explain away that footage of firemen and men with guns turning up at this man's property after a big cat sighting. Either there is an established extermination programme or the authorities have reason to take such reports extremely seriously. Now if they were simply taking things seriously surely it would be uniformed firearms officers who attended? Not a ramshackle group of guys who look more like guns for hire than officers of the law? Really rather interesting footage which I will take with a big dose of "reality" but will still ponder for quite some time. The big dose of reality is simply that the "big cat" looks to be a large domestic cat in this instance. Can they really grow that big? YES! I myself am desperate to own a Maine Coon which is a very large (and beautiful!) breed of felis catus. So I'm wary of the rest of the story as the premise (as featured in the video beforehand) is faulty. Another similar sort of report of police involvement can be read here. Again I make no claims of belief in such a cover up but simply put it out there for consideration.
Neil Arnold has an interesting article (among many) on what sort of big cats could survive and remain relatively hidden in the wilds of Kent (and hence most of Great Britain).
Check out the Monster Quest episode The Black Beast Of Exmoor for some more supposed footage of big cats in Britain.
Don't get me wrong, I believe most reports of such cats are simply mistaken identity as most pictures are very clearly domestic cats or some just dogs (I really despair when I see a picture supposedly of a big cat and see instantly it's a dog). But there is too much evidence to dismiss the fact that somewhere out there, right now, a large cat is lurking. Whether it's a rogue or a member of a thriving breeding population... that is what we need to establish.
Big Cats Loose in Britain - Marcus Matthews (UK Amazon, US Amazon)
Mystery Big Cats - Merrily Harpur (UK Amazon, US Amazon)
The Surrey Puma: The Natural and Unnatural History of Britain's First Alien Big Cat - Roman Ilmar Golicz (UK Amazon)