Are Big Cats In the UK?

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.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and please leave a comment if you wish.

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Should large predators be re-introduced back into the UK?

The UK was once home to some of the largest predators in Europe, the European grey wolf, the Lynx and the European brown bear once thrived here.

The European gray wolf (also known as Canis Lupus) can reach 150 cm in length and weigh at least 25 kg. They once inhabited woodlands and mountain ranges where they hunted red and roe deer. The wolf suffered persecution from farmers for centuries until the it died out in England during the 1670s. However the European gray wolf continued to survive in the Scottish Highlands until the 1740s where they were hunted to extinction in the British Isles. The European gray wolf can still be seen in Eastern and Southern Europe.

The Lynx (also known as Felis Lynx) grows up to 135 cm in length and weighs between 21 – 30 kilograms. They once thrived in densely wooded areas and mountainous terrain, on which it preyed on roe deer, hares and birds. The lynx died out in the UK during the early part of the 11th century due to constant persecution from farmers, reduction in prey and habitat loss. The lynx still inhabits Southeast Europe and are now being re-introduced to parts of Western Europe and much of Asia. An interesting fact – A lynx needs to eat at least 2 kilograms of meat a day just to survive.

The European brown bear (also known as Ursus Arctos) can reach 2.1 meters in length and weigh in at around 250 – 300 kilograms. They once could be seen in rural areas such as woodland and grassland with rivers and streams. The brown bear is an omnivore and will hunt deer and birds, but will also feed on fish, fruits, berries and honey, however less than 20% of its diet consists of meat. The European brown still survives in Russia, Northern Spain, Southern France, Italy and other areas of Northern Europe.

The advantages of re-introducing large predators back into Britain are:

1) The bear, the lynx and the wolf once thrived here until they died out primarily due to human activities, so the ethical approach would be to put these animals back where they belong.

2) Secondly, many people leave the UK to visit countries that still have these predators wouldn’t it be cheaper for those people to simply see these animals in the UK?

3) Thirdly, deer populations have skyrocketed over the last few decades and are causing an immense amount of damage to the ecosystems and agriculture. The UK government spends a staggering £2 million each year to simply control their numbers, and this is not enough. By re-introducing predators back into Britain this would mean that deer numbers can be controlled without wasting an enormous amount of money.

The disadvantages for re-introducing large predators back into he UK are:

1) They could have the potential to attack livestock and this could cripple food production. An interesting fact – Apparently, brown bear will kill as many as 50 sheep in a single night! There is no place in the UK that can afford these substantial losses.

2) Also there is serious concern whether these predators will pose a threat to humans and the answer inevitably is yes. There have been reports of wolves and bears attacking humans. However there have been very little information on lynx human attacks, maybe we can only re-introduce the lynx back into Britain.

I am in favour of the re-introduction of large predators back into the UK as this help strengthen our crippled economy. If you wish to comment please do so.

Thank you for reading!