Big Cats in Gloucestershire do exist says expert Frank
UK Big Cat
Big cat enthusiast Frank Tunbridge hits back at claims there is no actual evidence of the animals in Gloucestershire:
I want to respond to letters published in The Citizen about Big Cats and whether or not they exist.
The public need to be made aware of the situation, as with over 2,000 reports and sightings of British Big Cats throughout the UK every year, the mystical Big Cat is slowly becoming less of a mystery.
Cross sections of all different communities see these animals on a daily, or shall I say late afternoon onwards, basis.
Police officers, forest rangers, highway staff, ramblers and dog walkers have all confirmed in detail what they have encountered, often at close quarters.
A large leopard-sized animal, either jet black, dark brown or fawn in colour, exhibiting a feline-style of movement and behaviour.
The evidence is overwhelming.
Facts: The Oxford Dictionary describes the word 'panther' as: 1. A leopard, especially with black fur; 2. A puma.
Therefore a black, or to use the correct term 'melanistic' leopard can be correctly called a 'Black Panther'.
In America, the eastern coast puma is sometimes referred to as the Florida panther.
Facts: The 'Black Panther' is not a hybrid of the usual spotted leopard, neither in America is it a hybrid of the jaguar. A hybrid is the result of a union between two different species, producing offspring with characteristics of both parents.
Therefore, a union between say a leopard (Panthera Pardus) and a different species of cat like a puma (Felis Concolor) would result in a hybrid.
This, I believe, accounts for many of the Big Cats which are seen on a regular basis up and down the country.
The animals released over the years, especially around and between 1976 – date of the dangerous wild animals act, and 1981 – the zoo licence act, were mostly pumas and predominantly black leopards.
After so many generations of cross-breeding, a naturalised 'type' of British Big Cat has now established itself as part of our diverse exotic wildlife – including many introduced and escaped species, such as the rabbit (from the Normans), the grey squirrel (from North America), the American mink, the Muntjac deer (from Asia). Then there is the Ruchi duck, the wallaby, the ring-necked parakeet, terrapins and, of course, the well-known wild boar.
All these have found a niche within our shores and most have prospered, and with many becoming a nuisance to man's ways.
Leopards and pumas are born survivors, both stealthy, cunning and elusive, well able to exist close to the habitation of mankind. Leopards are audacious enough to snatch livestock and pets under the very noses of their owners.
Both these species have a very Catholic diet existing on a wide range of prey – grasshoppers, beetles, small rodents, rabbits and deer, are all fair game to these adaptable creatures.
The British countryside offers all of this for 'our' Big Cats to live on. Also, the abundance of old overgrown stone quarries, derelict farm buildings, and miles of disused railway lines give excellent cover and concealment for them to lay-up, and also have their cubs in. (I have received sightings of adult cats and cubs.)
The now over-abundant and invasive small deer (Muntjac and Roe) population in the UK is the mainstay of these Big Cats. I get called out to at least six or seven deer kills every winter where all the hallmarks of the killing point to a Big Cat similar to a leopard or puma being responsible.
As for the argument that no decent photos are available – well they are – and video footage.
Don't just take my word for it, why not come along to our next illustrated talk on the subject.
This will be held on Thursday, March 15, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at St Laurence Church Hall, Stroud.
Telephone me, Frank Tunbridge on 07711 476 715 for details.
Also call me in confidence on this number if you have seen a Big Cat or any evidence relating to one.
Finally, these British 'Big Cats' are here to stay – harming no one – part of the countryside – to be accepted and carefully managed, like all our wildlife should be – wild and free!