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13 November 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > Nature > Nature Features > Big Cats - in Staffordshire?

Puma silhouette

Big Cats - in Staffordshire?

Many people are convinced a puma or a panther or a lynx or mountain lion or … something… is hiding in the uninhabited spaces of Staffordshire.  Let’s consider some evidence of 'alien big cats'…

Despite many claimed sightings of the big cats in Staffordshire, no-one has ever caught one of the beasts here, or taken totally definitive photographic evidence. No one local has reported ‘losing’ a big cat from their collection, or having had one escape.
Yet we have some compelling evidence too: some eye-witness accounts, some (slightly blurry) film, and experts who say that it’s quite probable something is out there.

On his page we present some of the evidence – and you decide.
But before you start to worry...
Be aware that most sightings (as high as 86%) turn out to be mistaken. 
Across Britain, no one has ever been killed by a large cat, though there have been 'claims' of attacks.
There have been only a dozen cats confirmed as being out there on the loose - most of which were already being hunted, having been reported as having escaped from a zoo.

Sightings

Nevertheless...   Keith Mansfield, who's an author and scientist, was visiting Rudyard Lake in the September of 2008, when he came across something which made the hairs on the back of his head stand on end.  Keith reported his sighting to BBC Radio Stoke and Breakfast Show presenter Pete Morgan called him back to find out more...

Keith also managed to get a few seconds of footage on his mobile phone. The quality's not great as the subject is in the distance, but you can clearly see the animal that he saw…

And, it’s not just in the north of the county that supposed ‘big cats’ have been seen. They’ve been seen on Cannock Chase, and even in parts of Stafford.
Bill Gethin gave our reporter Matt Lee this account of his sighting in Gnosall, in mid-Staffordshire in late 2008

Documentary

One believer in the theory is Steven Silverwood, a former media production student from Staffordshire University. 
Being himself from Burntwood in south Staffordshire, he had heard of the mystery surrounding a big black cat that is said to roam the areas in and around Cannock Chase Forest, and he determined to piece together everything in a short film documentary.

His search ended up taking him across the border into Shropshire however…  See what Stephen came up with by viewing his film, which is now posted on YouTube:

But if Stephen had to keep trailing his cat for miles to get shots of it, one man just had to go for a walk, and there it was!  Greg Spencer, a business consultant, was visiting Staffordshire in 2006 – and gave us this account:
“Yes. I saw a very large cat, about 50 yards away, near a canal in a little place called Huddlesford, just outside Lichfield.

Realised straight away that it couldn’t be an ordinary black cat cos too big, but took a few moments too study it and then was sure this was some kind of puma or panther.  Moving very stealthily thru old woodland at the side of the canal, its large paws and its size and movement make me 100% certain this wasn’t just a large domestic black cat. My wife was with me but she only saw it fleetingly. 


I did wonder about reporting it but everyday life pushed the sighting to the back of my mind until my wife mentioned it to a friend of hers last week and he confirmed that there have been other sightings of large cats in Staffordshire.  On reflection I wish I’d taken more time to follow it and get a photo!  Sighting was during the last week in Feb. 
Now that I reflect on the image I realise how beautiful this animal was, and how exciting (and also somehow sad) that they are surviving in this part of the world.  Am wondering if they could survive a full life here...”

How many are there?

The British Big Cat Society is convinced that they exist. Its report a few years ago revealed that 2,123 sightings of big cats were reported in a one year period - between April 2004 and July 2005. 
Almost 60% of all the sightings reported were of black cats, and 32% were of brown or sandy coloured ones, which the BBCS believes might be pumas.

How did they get there?

In 1976, the Government introduced the Dangerous Wild Animals Act to protect the public and ensure wild animals were looked after properly. Up until then, it was perfectly legal in the UK to keep exotic animals - leopards, pumas and panthers to crocodiles and poisonous snakes - as household pets!

With all owners then needing licenses - and having to pay much more money to care for them - many of the wild animals were placed in official zoos.
However some were released into the wild. In fact, due to a loophole in the law, it was not illegal until 1981 to release a big cat into the UK countryside!

What’s more, no less an authority than  the  BBC Wildlife magazine has also looked into the theory, reporting in 2006 that:  "With fresh new evidence and sightings on the increase, the British Big Cats Society is now tantalisingly close to being able to provide conclusive proof of their presence."
But, having said that, government sources say the evidence is too thin to be taken totally seriously.

What do you think?
So now over to you.  What’s your opinion?  Have you seen a big cat locally?  Do you think it’s possible?
Let us know…

last updated: 04/01/2010 at 10:26
created: 04/10/2008

Have Your Say

THANKS FOR ALL YOUR COMMENTS. THIS BOARD IS NOW CLOSED.

Robert D
Was returning home from work at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, approx 21.45hrs, through the village of Knockin, was amazed to see a very large black cat with a long tail, approx size of a small alsation run across the road from right to left and disappear through a tall hedge. It was on the turn for Maesbrook village, did not stop to investigate!!! 01.10.09

liz
me and my friend were driving around aprk hall last night and we saw a massive sandy coloured animal - at first we thought it might be a dog, but when my lights hit it, it jumped on a ledge and into the bushes. No dog could have jumped like that. Im never getting out of my car there again!

ANON
No doubt, they are out there, i have seen one with my my own eyes in north wales, theres plenty of different food sources for them to survive here, plenty of hiding spots, a quick trawl through Youtube should make your mind up for you !!

David
my dad believes one night when driving back he saw a figure cross the car over the roaches that looked like a big cat

Robert McMahon
i do believe big cats are roaming staffordshire but only the puma i have never seen 1 and i also believe wallabys are out there too i have most certainly seen 1 in the park hall hills i do a weekly up the hills covering around 3 square miles and havnt yet seen 1 would b spectacular 2 see 1 though

Beccy
I haven't ever seen a big cat whilst out and about, but I have heard numerous tales of them being seen. IS it possible they're just other creatures being mistaken?

henry atkinson
my dad reckons he saw one up park hall hills whilst walking his dog,the dog would not move and its fur was up

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