BIG CATS IN CUMBRIA?
|Witnesses say they saw big cats in
Witness reports suggest that a
family of big cats have made their home in the rugged Cumbrian countryside.
But do they really exist? Inside Out talks to startled eye witnesses
and doubtful experts…
Sightings of feral felines including panthers, pumas,
leopards and lions have soared recently.
Over 1000 people reported sightings to the British Big
Cat Society last year. Many of these were in Cumbria.
One man who’s convinced that big cats inhabit Cumbrian
territory is Paul Kissack.
|Paul says he
was 'amazed' by his sighting
He’s been a policeman for 22 years. He’s trained to observe,
accurate in giving evidence in court and used to dealing with the unexpected.
A more credible witness may be hard to find.
Paul says he spotted what he believes to be a puma whilst
walking with his wife in Armanthwaite.
Paul says, "It was exactly like watching a David Attenborough
"It was jet black in colour and I remember distinctly
a long tail and what seemed like enormous paws."
"It was running away from us so we didn’t feel at risk
- just amazed and privileged to have seen it."
Big cat sightings were recorded as early as 1860.
There are 38 species of cats in the world.
The tiger is the largest cat and is an endangered
Pumas live for an average of 12-13 years in the
The elusive cats rarely leave any trace of their existence.
The only evidence is eye witness accounts such as Paul’s and a few seconds
of unfocused amateur video.
This means that some people dismiss the sightings, claiming
they are just dogs, large farm cats or even sheep!
David Gill is an expert in cats and doubts the sightings.
He runs Cumbria’s only zoo, the South Lakes Wild Animal Park at Dalton.
David says that although theoretically big cats could
survive in Cumbria, he is doubtful that they actually do.
He says, "There’s no doubt to me that cats do not suddenly
appear 10, 20 or 100 miles away from each other."
"They will be living in a territory which has a good
food supply and living around that territory."
cats were the height of fashion in the 60s and 70s
The number of sightings is often traced back to the 60s
Big cats were popular fashion accessories and could be
purchased in Harrods. But in 1976 a change in the law meant that keeping
big cats was illegal without a license.
Licenses were expensive and this drove some exotic cat
owners to dump their prized pets in the wild.
Debate rages over whether cats could have survived and
bred since 1976 - leading to recent sighting.
It is eight years since the government last investigated
the existence of such big cats.
|David is a conservationist
and cat expert
In their report, the ‘Beast of Bodmin Moor’ in Cornwall
was declared a myth. Due to the lack of evidence it is unlikely that further
investigations will be launched in the near future.
David Gill says he is prepared to be convinced about
big cats inhabitancy, "Let’s keep an open mind but we need more evidence."
Inside Out would like to hear from you if you have any
evidence that you believe would convince David or an account of your own
big cat sighting.