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Creatures, Myths & Legends

Tracker: UK has 'viable population' of big cats

By T.K. Randall
October 12, 2020 · Comment icon 17 comments

Are there panthers on the loose in Britain's countryside ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Rute Martins
One of the UK's top big cat trackers believes that there is a viable, breeding population of exotic cats in the wild.
Sightings of large predatory cats have persisted across the British Isles for years. While it has long been suspected that a population of these animals has been roaming the countryside, conclusive evidence of their existence in the UK has been thin on the ground.

Some of the sightings are thought to be the result of big cat owners releasing their animals into the wild after the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in 1976, but with reports of large cats continuing well in to the 21st Century, it seems unlikely that this could explain all of them.

Now Rhoda Watkins - a 20-year big cat tracking veteran - believes that she has gathered enough evidence to point to the existence of a viable breeding population of big cats in the British Isles.

Her investigation - as well as her findings - will be covered by an upcoming documentary entitled Britain's Big Cat Mystery which is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

"I have studied the behavior of animals, including prey species and big cats and see things with a tracking mindset," she said.
"There is just too much evidence out there that can not be anything other than big cats."

"There is a lot of nonsense around sightings of domestic cats and dogs, but all the signs are there is a decent-sized population out there."

Watkins also contends that the phenomenon of big cats being released into the wild due to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was too long ago to account for today's sightings.

"I think given that the Act was so long ago and there are credible sightings now, there has got to be enough out there to be a breeding population," she said.

"We are now seeing the offspring of those who were released."

Source: | Comments (17)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by Nobu 4 years ago
I didn’t click the article. I wonder what the evidence is. Dna from hair would be pretty conclusive. Large  cats are hard to find but not impossible. I would think someone in the woods with their dog would have run across one by now.
Comment icon #9 Posted by HandsomeGorilla 4 years ago
I'm sure there is. I think I've seen enough this side of the pond to figure there are probably a few big cats over there. Doesn't seem unreasonable at all to me, we have lots of very large bobcats, mountain lions (caught on cam, but not currently recognized as a local species), and further south in Louisiana et al, you have what's most assuredly some other type of panther. My buddy killed a 40lb bobcat a few years ago, but most don't even know they live around here. Same for the mountain lions, they're not SUPPOSED to be here, but they are. There's one clear as a bell through Santee Cooper Par... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by HandsomeGorilla 4 years ago
Cats are seriously just one of those animals that are smart and slick enough to fly under the radar for this long. If there's anything 'paranormal', it's probably a damn cat. 
Comment icon #11 Posted by jethrofloyd 4 years ago
Comment icon #12 Posted by Matt221 4 years ago
i guess i havn't been mouching about at all hours with my dogs in the right place even the places i shouldn't have been i never seen nothing old huge big old feral cats 
Comment icon #13 Posted by OpeningThe Veil 4 years ago
By coincidence I started a thread on this subject without realising this existed, so I've copied and pasted my own experience across here. Hope that is okay. At the height of the "beast of Exmoor" period of sightings, my family were on holiday in September in a cottage that was located in a very quiet part of the moor well off the beaten track, in fact down a dead end road about 2 miles. From the very first night we heard strange sounds after dark like a peculiar screeching. It could have been a fox of course, but just didn't sound the same somehow. We were familiar with foxes. Our pet German... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by Jon the frog 4 years ago
So many MIAOU !  
Comment icon #15 Posted by Seeker-Of-Knowledge 3 years ago
I live in the north of England in a fairly rural area and I know a few people that claim to have seen a 'big cat'. My father has spotted one on two separate occasions in the village where he used to live. Never spotted anything myself but I'm inclined to believe the reports that something is out there. Humberside Police force actually admitted the existence of at least one big cat loose in East Yorkshire a few years back, but funnily enough that seemed to fly under the radar.
Comment icon #16 Posted by openozy 3 years ago
I was talking to my cousin in the UK and was amazed they have racoons, racoon dogs, feral pigs and other introduced animals sometimes caught over there.It just doesn't seem to have the wilderness to support these animals but it does, so I wouldn't rule out big cats.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Matt221 3 years ago
An old bloke i know who used to be a gamekeeper around staffordshire found a porcupine stuck in the mesh of a bit of pig fencing back in the 70s apparently there were a few living wild i think he may have given it to a zoo

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