Many big cats have reportedly been seen in Gloucestershire and Somerset, with cats foraging for food ‘like foxes’ by expert Frank Tunbridge
A wave of sightings of black cats in the British countryside has been reported as the animals become more daring after the lockdown, according to an expert.
Many big cats have reportedly been seen in Gloucestershire and Somerset, with cats foraging for food ‘like foxes’.
They are “often seen closer to towns and villages,” Frank Tunbridge – who has studied big cats for years – told Gloucestershire Live.
Over the past few months, the 74-year-old has received dozens of emails and calls regarding reports of big cat sightings that have occurred in Gloucestershire and beyond. He says Somerset is also a popular area for big cat sightings and he has spoken to witnesses over the years about their experiences.
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Mr Tunbridge said: ‘For a large majority of the British public the idea of predatory big cats similar in description to a black leopard or a cougar roaming our woods and fields is incredible.
“Yet for a witness who observed one of these elusive, stealthy creatures up close, the experience was unforgettable and she lives with them forever.
“So, are they over there or not?”
“The whole subject of the living and thriving ‘big cats’ in the UK has been unfolding for decades without a satisfactory conclusion.
“Even though the evidence for their existence is overwhelming. Facts such as confirmed DNA, deer killed and eaten in a certain way, and paw marks from big cats.
“There is no doubt that over the years these animals have left our homes following releases and escapes from private collections. They breed and spread secretly throughout the British Isles to naturalize and are now part of our diverse exotic fauna.
“A lot of these big cats are hybrids that now breed faithfully to type. Up to 70 percent of the reports I receive highlight this fact in their description of the cat.
“Along with a few other counties in southwest England, Somerset has become a hotspot for reported sightings of these elusive felids.
“Since the lockdown began, they have become more daring and are often seen closer to towns and villages, in some cases foraging for food similar to urban foxes.
“The massive deer population in the region is their main source of prey, with the small muntjac and larger deer ideal for them. As they say: “Where there is something to eat, there is something to eat”.
“Usually a wave of big cat reports seems to happen in one area for a short time and then continues, often reappearing about a year later in the same locality.
“Most of these cats seen are black, similar in some ways to a black leopard, but also some fawn-colored big cats exhibit characteristics similar to a puma.
“These big cats are harmless to humans. They should be accepted as an interesting addition to the British wildlife scene. “
In 2020, a woman living on the outskirts of Paulton claims to have seen a big cat “running in her garden”.
His son, Derek Bond spoke about what happened on the day of the sighting.
He said, “She heard that sound of something falling in the back yard. She heard a clicking sound but then this thing walked past her.
“She fell backwards as she was surprised at what she saw and lost her balance.
“She said she didn’t know what it was.
Ms Bond described the animal as “powerful in appearance with long legs”, claiming that it had “short black hairs” and that it was “at least as big as a tall Alsatian”.
Three other reports described experiences similar to what she had seen.
Matthew Edmonds claims to have seen something very similar to Mrs. Bond while driving to Stanton Drew.
He said: “I was walking through Stanton one night with my girlfriend around 11pm and saw a black cat which was absolutely huge.
“He was the size of a large dog, however, he was very skinny and had a shiny jet black coat. I witnessed it, sitting next to my girlfriend.”
Truck driver Allan Simmons claims to have seen something similar while driving near Gurney Slade and for a moment thought he had managed to catch the creature on his dash cam.
Mr Simmons said: “I was driving my truck out of Gurney Slade to the Chilcompton depot around 3:30 pm during a heavy hailstorm.
“As I got to the top of the hill before the Old Down Inn, I clearly saw a big black cat running from the field on my right straight through the hedge, across the road and into the opposite field.”
Sarah Kamette, who lives on St Johns Road in Timsbury, believes she saw a similar animal around the same time. While struggling to fall asleep the night of the meeting, she decided to get up and have a drink.
Ms. Kamette explained, “I was not sleeping well and had a cup of tea around 3 am My security light went off as I returned to bed.
“I looked out of my bedroom window to see a very large animal wandering around in my neighbor’s front garden.
“I was like ‘wow, that looks like a jaguar’ because it has a very distinctive long S-shaped tail.”