Most people have pets, many have cats. Some are cute and fluffy, some sleep all day, others can be a bit more vicious.
But no matter how many dead birds your cat drags through the door, there might be some feral cats in Berkshire that make your four-legged wild friend look like the picture of grace and kindness.
In the peaceful Berkshire countryside, there have been rumors of “big cat” sightings. However, there has never been any hard evidence of their existence, with photographs almost nonexistent.
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We decided to go back to some of those supposed sightings and see what made people say they spotted a wild cat and, in one particular case, a crocodile.
Since the 1970s, rumors have circulated about large animals living in the wild when the government introduced the Dangerous Wildlife Act.
This new legislation saw the introduction of a permit for anyone who raised wild animals.
From there, a theory emerged – to bypass the clearance process, owners of big cats simply let them loose in the woods of Berkshire. Can this be true?
We are looking at the spots that have been reported over the years.
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Carl Young of Tilehurst in February 2002 found a deer that had been torn in half in a wood near the Calcot golf course.
He recalled that the lower half of the deer was missing and said he saw “large paw prints” nearby.
Mr Young said, “I was just walking over there with the dog and then saw this deer torn in half, but the bottom half was missing. There was only the head and shoulders.
“Saw some big paw prints and some deer hair, so obviously the other half was dragged up that hill, but the trail suddenly stops. It’s definitely been eaten.”
Rumors that continued to circulate in 2003 led to the coining of the term “Wokingham Wildcat”.
It is believed he was first spotted by Rachael Conroy, a psychology student, who said she saw the cat twice as she was driving along Bearwood Road in Barkham late October night.
Then, in November, Dawn Saidi, of Kiln Ride in Finchampstead, said her daughter saw a ‘fawn cat’ emerging from the bushes near the village of Ravenswood in Crowthorne.
Annette Harrington of Woosehill also spotted a “very big cat” while walking with a dog in the Coombes woods in Barkham in 1999.
She said: “The cat was crossing the field between School Lane in Arborfield and the woods of Coombes, he was far too big to be a house cat.
“He had a long beige body and a very long tail that had a distinctive curve and a bulbous tip. When he saw my dogs he ran away but I know what I saw.
Likewise, dog walker Millie Cowling said she felt unsafe when she encountered a ‘very big cat’ while walking her dog at Edney’s Hill in Wokingham in October of the same year.
In July 2004, reader Ray Bishton contacted the Wokingham Times after thinking he had seen “a strange looking animal” in Forest Road.
Mr Bishton said: “It looked me straight in the eye and I wasn’t sure what it was at first. He didn’t look like a fox or a dog, he was too big and definitely too big to be a normal cat.
“It was hard to see the color, but it was a fairly light brown with ears like a fox but its tail was not at all bushy, it was straight and quite long.
“When I approached where he was standing, he just moved along the road and disappeared into the bushes. I didn’t know what to really think, but it was a surprise.
It took some time before another stain was reported.
The mother of three, Jennifer Trill, claimed to have seen the ‘Wokingham Wildcat’ in her garden in Winnersh in April 2007.
She said she saw something that “looked really weird” and described it as a “cross between a cat and a fox”.
In December, Army dog handler Ian Duffin was on his way to work at Arborfield Garrison when a “German Shepherd-sized black panther” ran past him.
He said, “I was like, ‘What the hell is this? and he disappeared to the side of the road and into a garden.
Another unknown creature was spotted by Jane Allen near Ashamsted, and Geoff and Sylvia Killgallon, of Caversham Park Village, reportedly saw a large cat in a field behind their house.
Patricia Lewis, from Earley, said she encountered a similar creature in the woods near Pangbourne.
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BerkshireLive was contacted about a suspected big cat sighting in 2011, when a “panther” was spotted near Pangbourne.
Mum Natasha Wysockyj, 23, said she was “stalked” by the animal walking in the woods.
Sightings of big cats became increasingly rare, until …
Just last month, motorist Alan Bertram was stunned when he saw an animal “too big to be a normal dog or cat” emerge from a forest near the Oratory school.
He was traveling along the A4074 when he saw a “panther-like” creature running down the road
“It was definitely big, and it definitely wasn’t a domestic cat or a dog,” he said.
“It wasn’t a deer or a fox, it had all the characteristics of a cat, but it was much bigger. I’ve been thinking about it for 48 hours.”
What should we believe?
Nothing is certain, however, due to the lack of hard evidence, such as photographs or even a cat’s body (a long time has passed since the first spotting), it’s hard to say in a way or in the other.
Berkshire has had its fair share of spots, with the big cats making up just a few.
In 2013, Richard Smith was convinced he had seen a crocodile in the Thames near the Reading Rowing Club.
He even remembered another time when he said he saw a goose being pulled underwater by a sinister predator.
However, reptile experts quickly put an end to these rumors by explaining that cold-blooded crocodiles could not survive the frigid English weather.
But the story does not end there. Other theories have emerged claiming that the crocodile was in fact the crocodile accessory used in the James Bond film “Octopussy”.
But that too quickly came to an end when Peter Wallace, the man behind the prop, reassured everyone that his crocodile was safely stored in his home.
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