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On the trail of the county's big cats
Frank Tunbridge
Frank Tunbridge runs a big cat hotline
Last updated: 18 January 2005 1319 GMT
lineMysterious big cats have been in the media again recently, with sightings on the increase. Now Gloucester man Frank Tunbridge has set up a hotline where the public can report sightings.
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Frank Tunbridge's interest in mystery big cats dates back to the sixties, when sightings of the 'Surrey Puma' first caught his imagination.

Since then he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge on the subject, and offers advice and consultations via his Big Cat Hotline.

Mystery

But what are these mysterious giant felines?

"No one knows what they are, people always thinks it’s a black panther or puma, but it could be a completely different species.

quoteI disturbed it and it was gone in a flash.
quote
Frank Tunbridge

"I think they are a hybrid variety that has developed over the years and is now breeding true to type.


"There are some characteristics quite different to a normal leopard, for example these have been seen running very fast over great distances, which is unusual.

"The long tail also stands out - it is extremely long, almost like its too long for the animal."

Droppings

Frank recently found what he believes to be the droppings of a big cat.

Separating out the droppings, he found "rabbit fur and bones. A few small vertebrae, and a small canine tooth, possibly from a weasel or a stoat."

He was reluctant to reveal the location of the discovery.

"I'd prefer to keep it secret because these animals aren't doing of a harm to anyone - just living off wildlife - but they do create a stir because they're large predators," he said.

Cat Droppings
The 'cat' droppings found by Frank Tunbridge

Theory

Frank has a theory about the origin of some of Gloucestershire's big cats.

"A local landowner, about 15 years ago I was told, kept exotic cats on a big estate just on the outskirts of Gloucester.

"They weren't large cats, more like jungle cats.

"Someone I know went up there and he saw these kept in an outside cage. He said they were small and fawn coloured. "

"These, I think, have established themselves in this area.

"I've seen one stalking a pheasant, it was the size of a fox.

"I disturbed it and it was gone in a flash."

Advice

Although he considers these elusive animals unlikely to attack unless surprised, Frank did have some safety advice.

"If people go out into the country, especially to isolated areas or where cats have been seen, keep a rein on small toddlers, just in case."

PointerSee also: Gloucestershire's big cats

Read some of the features you may have missed in our archive section or get in touch at gloucestershire@bbc.co.uk.

   
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