Three friends fishing off Pen Llyn got the shock of their lives when they spotted a ‘very large cat’ prowling a few yards from where they had parked their car. The trio said they came face to face with what they believed to be a mountain lion as they parked their car at Gimblet Rock in Pwllheli.
Paul Wilson, Paul Owen and Patrick Owen noticed the “brown or fawn” animal near the rocky outcrop at the end of the town beach, also known as Carreg yr Imbill. Two days later they reported it to Puma Watch North Wales, who said it was the first ever reported sighting of a big cat on the Llyn Peninsula.
Puma Watch said it’s likely that reduced levels of human activity during the pandemic have encouraged big cats to wander farther from the hills into more populated areas like this. A BBC study recently compiled more than 100 big cat sightings over 18 months in North and Mid Wales.
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Speaking of the sighting in March, Paul Wilson told Puma Watch: “Me and two friends had been out fishing at night. We had just parked our cars when we noticed what at first appeared to be a dog the size of medium to large sitting straight looking at us about 20 meters away.
“He was sitting amongst the dune grass which was on a slope away from us. I walked a few meters towards him while my friend turned on his headlights to give him more light.
“We then all realized it was not a dog but a very big cat who then got up and turned away and walked away from us turning his head to look back at us once. We We didn’t see him again. The cat was as big as a golden retriever.
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Puma Watch has had several reports of mountain lions in the sand dunes of North Wales, most recently a black panther was spotted chasing rabbits and birds in the dunes at Prestatyn beach. In September 2021, an animal matching the same description was spotted on the golf course adjacent to Rhyl Beach.
Big cats such as cougars are solitary with a hunting radius of several tens of kilometers. They are mostly spotted in Snowdonia and the Clwydian Hills, but reports of sightings in urban areas some distance from these areas are increasingly common.
When big cats were banned as pets in the 1970s, it was legal to release them into the countryside to avoid costly rehoming fees. Owners from across the UK have traveled to areas such as Wales to release their cats into a remote environment, where small but significant populations have since flourished.
Earlier this year, the Welsh Government responded to the recent spate of sightings and confirmed the steps it is taking to investigate anything reported to it, including taking casts of paw prints. A visitor to an animal rescue center in Snowdonia in 1994 recently claimed he had been introduced to four puma kittens.
He said: ‘I strongly suspect they were released into the wild as they had no papers and no money to feed or house them. They were definitely gone six months later.