Big cats have been reported to inhabit the British countryside. The main known reason how these animals came to Britain is that many owners of these exotic animals chose to release them due to the introduction of the ‘Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976’. The first sighting of these creatures date as far back as the 18th where a well known writer (William Cobbett) believed he saw a mid-sized cat climbing a tree.
Throughout the 19th century there are increasing reports, sightings and evidence for these creatures inhabiting the British Isles. In 1991 a European lynx was shot in Norfolk due to killing over 10 sheep in a very small amount of time. However the issue was just reported in 2003 as the farmer thought that he had shot an endangered species. In 1993 a leopard was shot in the ‘Isle of Wright’ for killing livestock. In 2001 a lynx was captured in North London and taken into London Zoo. It was then discovered to be under 2 years of age.
In June 2006 a video was taken of a large black cat (possibly a panther) in the rural areas of Aberdeenshire. In mid 2009 a video was taken of a large black cat that was walking next to railway line in Argyll, it is apparent that big cats with dark colours have been reported on several occasions before. In 2010 a video footage was taken of a 5 foot black cat in Gloucestershire.
There have been very few attacks from big cats on people in Britain. There are 2 well known big cat attacks on people. In 2000 a young boy was attacked by what appears to be a black panther in South Wales. This evidence for big cats living in the UK is unique because is yields physical impressions, the attack left him with 5 claw marks on the left side of his face.
There has been some DNA evidence which confirms the existence of the ‘British big cats’. In 2011 DNA testing which was done by Durham University shows that a leopard was living in Northern Devon.
These creatures feed on roe deer, fallow deer, sika deer, and young deer. They will also target birds, rabbits and small mammals. There have been several reports of big cats killing livestock however this happens only in extreme cases such as poor weather, lack of natural prey or the animal is injured. The species of big cats that inhabit Britain are the leopard, the Black Panther (which accounts to the majority of reports); the puma (where 30% of sightings fit its description), Jaguar, Lynx, Ocelot, Jungle cat and even lions have been reported.
The Puma and the Black Panther are the most commonly reported cats in the UK there is also reports of a big cat that is completely unique to Britain and unknown to science however there is very little information on this particular species. The Puma is by far going to be one of the successful cats in the UK (please note the puma is classified as a small cat this is because it can purr and it is more closely related to small felines rather than big cats). The puma is highly adaptable and can easily survive in the UK. One reason why the large felines have been so successful in the UK is that there is a wide abundance of prey and there is very little competition for food and territory.
These animals must be breeding in the UK, many big cats live no more than 20 years in captivity, however there have been sighting since the 1970s. Between 2004 to 2005 there have been around 18 reports of big cats with cubs which is evidence that these creatures are breeding.
These animals do provide their advantages, these include:
1) Controlling deer populations
2) Encourage people to come to Britain (if they become more numerous) which will fuel the economy.
3) The lynx was once native to Britain, the fact that it is amongst many reports suggests that it can be re-introduced back into the UK. It also means that there could already be small breeding populations throughout the British Isles.
These creatures will only attack if corned so it is advisably that a reasonable amount of space is given if you decide to look for these animals. There have been a few reports of big cats growling at people, this meant that the cat was corned and had no where to escape. They growl to intimidate people so they back away giving an opportunity for the cat to escape.
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