As an animal keeper for many years, it is innevitable that i have run into this debate before. Whilst working in the midlands i was called upon by local police forces, on several occassions, to help with reports of "big cat" sightings. I would accompany them to the scene of the sighting and check for evidence. I have found spoor, (feaces), scratch marks, foot prints and fur on many of the sites but i cannot confirm that any of the evidence found came from a big cat.
Saturday, 3 April 2010
Big Cats on Dartmoor!
According to Plymouth Herald: Britains environment watchdog has ruled out the existence of big cats in the wilds of the Westcountry, despite countless sighting claims by members of the public.
Natural England said it was "confident that there is no breeding population of big cats" in the UK after releasing a list of the exotic species reported to it by the public.
Before the 1970's the law on keeping a big cat, such as Lion or Tiger, was very relaxed. Anyone could keep a Lion in their garden as long as it was caged! My partners family lived just around the corner from such an owner who kept his Lion on the front lawn! The local children would walk past it on their way to school.
Since then the law has changed dramatically. The Dangerous Wild Animal Act, (DWA), was introduced in the early 70's to stop the trend of keeping big cats as pets and forced owners to house their cats, and other dangerous animals, properly. Proper, safe enclosures were needed with adequate room and a licence was needed to own such an animal.
This new law prompted an influx of animals being given away to zoo's, but worst of all, some of those that couldn't afford to comply with the new regulations would release their animals into "the wild". Exmoor was the first place to have a "big cat" sighting. A black Panther, (Leopard). Thought to be an illegally released cat in the 70's. Since then hundreds of sightings came in to various police forces all across the country. Dartmoor being one of them. Over the past 30 years many sightings have been reported across Dartmoor, Bodmin moor and Exmoor. Each area boasting their own "beast of"
While the original cats of the seventies will all be dead now, is it possible that some crossed eachothers paths and produced offspring? We cannot discount this, but, in my personal opinion, i think unlikely. Many sightings are fake, many just mis-identified. Yet the sightings still come. Are they the offspring, escapee's, illegally bred releases? Reports across Britain still come in from time to time but Natural England say there is no breeding population of big cats in the UK. Where have they come from? Where is the evidence? Who knows for sure?
What do you think?
Are there big cats roaming Dartmoor? Have you seen what you believe to be a big cat? Let us know you views.