The Isle of Wight has had its fair share of big cat sightings over the past century – and it has attracted many expert visits as well.
From the early to mid-1980s sightings were plentiful, so much so that in March 1984 Di Francis, a Devon naturalist and big cat author, spent a day on the island hoping to get a sponsorship for a three month expedition. here to hunt down one of the elusive creatures.
Scroll through our gallery above to see more photos of big cats and press clippings …
She visited the scene of the last sightings on the Isle of Wight of one of the big cats – a grove adjacent to Lynnbottom Point – to photograph the paw prints she suspected the animal had made .
County Press article on Di Francis’ visit in March 1984.
She also met one of the eyewitnesses to the latest sighting, who reported seeing something the size of an Alsatian dog, which wandered near the car as they dumped garbage in the landfill.
In May 1984, there were two sightings of big cats in Newport.
Carisbrooke High School student Gavin Parker saw one of the strange animals on the land off Wellington Road in the middle of the day.
It was also spotted by Karen Lambert, who was walking up Petticoat Lane when she spotted the animal in a field.
She said he had a dark head and tail and a sandy-colored body like a Siamese cat, but was the size of a large Labrador dog.
The late Ken Frogbrook, whose lambs were taken by a big cat in 1985. Photo: IWCP Archive.
In April and May 1985, Ken Frogbrook, who was farming in Stagwell near Parkhurst Forest, lost two lambs from his flock of rare Shetland sheep.
He believed that a large cat was responsible, having himself seen the creature in the area.
According to County Press reports, the number of sightings reported on the Isle of Wight was around 110 during the two-and-a-half-year period leading up to June 1985.
Also in June 1985, Roy Kingswell of Rowborough Farm, near Shorwell, discovered a dead lamb and immediately took the carcass to Jack Corney, owner of the Isle of Wight Zoo in Sandown for his advice.
Jack said the 60lb. the lamb could have been killed by a large animal, but he was unable to say for sure what species.
Fast forward to January 1994, and Martin Trippett, founder of the Island Naturalist Group, took other members to search for cats at night using specialized infrared equipment – although they had nothing seen.
Also around this time, Birmingham-based mystery cat expert Dr Karl Shuker identified an animal slaughtered on the Isle of Wight seven years earlier as an Asian leopard cat.
County Press front page article April 19, 2002.
In April 2002, two sisters filmed video footage of what they believed to be a fat cat roaming the Isle of Wight countryside in their home.
It was believed to be the first time such a creature has been filmed on the island.
The footage was shot near the Checkers Inn, Rookley, by sisters Rachael Dethridge, of Kingston-Upon-Thames and Beverly Futers, of Chale.
Beverly said: “There is absolutely no way it was a domestic cat – you can tell by its size and the way it moved with swagger.”
After watching the video, Isle of Wight Zoo owner Jack Corney said the creature may well be a small black leopard.
Shortly after, in January 2003, a feline creature believed to be the size of a Labrador was observed for several minutes through binoculars by staff at BN Group airfield in Bembridge.
He was described as dark brown or brindle, like a black leopard, but police said despite a search at the scene, neither the animal nor traces of its existence were found.
In May 2010, Trudy Boulton, of Whitepit Lane, Newport, and his father, David Boulton, saw a large cat in the field behind David’s house in Garden Way, Pan.
Trudy said: âWhen I looked through his binoculars, I could see him walking along the hedge. Normally you can just make out a fox or a badger, but it was huge.
“It was a beige color with a long tail and it moved very gracefully, like a lion.”
The late Jack Corney, who has often been asked for his opinion on big cat sightings on the Isle of Wight. Photo: IWCP Archives.
In June 2012, Ventnor’s mother Michelle Angell had a nighttime scare after a mysterious big cat climbed out of her bedroom window, smashing a bedside lamp.
She said he was too big to be a domestic cat and “was very frantic and behaved like a wild animal”.
The most recent sighting reported to the County Press was in February of this year, which suggests the big cats are still around.
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