'Panther' like big cat spotted in Somerset – Police confirm report of sighting

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'Panther' like big cat spotted in Somerset – Police confirm report of sighting

The animal was sighted between the towns of Frome and Bruton in the Witham Friary area. Confirmation of the report came following a Freedom of Info

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The animal was sighted between the towns of Frome and Bruton in the Witham Friary area. Confirmation of the report came following a Freedom of Information request asking how many big cat sightings had been reported in the area during 2021.

It followed witness accounts of “caracals” and “pumas” roaming the countryside in Devon and Cornwall.

A man even claimed he had come “face to face” with one of the animals on Dartmoor.

The local constabulary was asked how many sightings had been reported in Somerset and Bath last year.

The force responded to say that they had searched their computer systems for any logs containing the term “big cat”.

They noted that this would not capture all the large felines reported.

Some may have been recorded under more specific terms like “lynx” and “leopard”.

Avon and Somerset Police said: “Following a search of call logs in 2021 for the text ‘big cat’, one report has been identified with a recorded location of either Somerset or Bath.

“In relation to the report identified, the description recorded was, ‘large puma/panther type cat’.

“The location recorded was, ‘Witham Friary area’ within the Local Policing Area of Somerset East.

“The call was resolved without deployment by Avon and Somerset Police.

“No information regarding whether this was confirmed or not has been recorded.”

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Of the suspected sighting in Dartmoor, big cat expert Frank Tunbridge said it is “most unusual to see a caracal living wild in the UK”. But he added that Dartmoor is a “vast area of wilderness”.

Many of the reported sightings turn out to be one offs, or mistaken identity.

Big cats on the loose have been confirmed as abandoned pets or escaped animals from secure enclosures.

Mr Tunbridge added: “To a large majority of the British public, the thought of big predatory cats similar in description to a black leopard or a puma stalking through our woods and fields is unbelievable.

“Yet to a witness who has observed one of these elusive and stealthy creatures at close quarters, the experience is unforgettable and it lives with them forever.

“So, are they out there, or are they not?

“The whole subject of ‘big cats’ living and thriving within the UK has been rolling on for decades now without a satisfactory conclusion.

“Even though the evidence for their existence is overwhelming.

“Facts such as confirmed DNA, deer killed and consumed in a certain way and big cat paw marks.

“There can be no doubt that over the years these animals are out there as a result of releases and escapes from private collections.

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They have bred and spread covertly throughout the British Isles to become naturalised, and are now part of our diverse exotic wildlife.

“Many of these big cats are hybrids which are now breeding true to type.

“As many as 70 percent of reports I receive point to this fact in their description of the cat.”

Experts estimate there could be as many as 500 big cats roaming about the UK.

Any sightings should be reported to the police or the RSPCA, according to advice.



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