Big cats roaming UK countryside ‘scavenging for food like foxes’, expert warns


Numerous large felines have reportedly been seen across Gloucestershire and Somerset, with the cats said to be scavenging for food ‘like foxes’ by expert Frank Tunbridge

Big cat sightings have reportedly become more common in recent months
Big cat sightings have reportedly become more common in recent months

A surge of black cat sightings in the British countryside has been reported as the animals become bolder after lockdown, an expert claims.

Numerous large felines have reportedly been seen across Gloucestershire and Somerset, with the cats said to be scavenging for food ‘like foxes’.

They are “often seen closer to towns and villages”, Frank Tunbridge – who has studied big cats for years – told Gloucestershire Live.

Over recent months, the 74-year-old has received dozens of emails and calls about reports of big cat sightings which have happened across Gloucestershire and beyond. He says that Somerset is also a popular area for big cat sightings and he has spoken to witnesses over the years about their experiences.

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Big cats are said to be becoming bolder since lockdown (file image)
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Mr Tunbridge said: “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. 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 per cent of reports I receive point to this fact in their description of the cat.

“Along with a couple of other counties in the South West of England, Somerset has become a hot spot for reported sightings of these elusive felids.

“Since the start of lockdown, they have become bolder, and are often seen closer to towns and villages, in some cases scavenging for food similar to urban foxes.

“The massive deer population in the area is their main source of prey, with the diminutive muntjac, and larger roe deer ideal for them. As they say: ‘Where there is something to eat, there’s something to eat it’.

“Usually a spate of big cat reports seem to occur in one area for a short while, and then it moves on, often reappearing around a year later back in the same locality.

“Most of these cats seen are black, similar in some respects to a black leopard, but also some fawn coloured big cats occur with puma-like characteristics.

“These big cats are harmless towards people. They should be accepted as an interesting addition to the British wildlife scene.”

In 2020, a woman living on the outskirts of Paulton claims to have seen a big cat “running through her garden”.

Her son, Derek Bond spoke of what happened the day the sighting occurred.

He said: “She heard this noise of something which dropped into the yard behind. She heard a clatter but then this thing walked by her.

“She fell over backwards as she was surprised at what she saw and lost her balance.

“She said she doesn’t know what it was.”

Mrs Bond described the animal as “powerful-looking with long legs”, saying it had “short black hair” and was “at least big as a large Alsatian”.

Three other reports described similar experiences to what she had seen.

Matthew Edmonds claims to have seen something very similar to Mrs Bond whilst driving in Stanton Drew.

He said: “I was driving through Stanton one night with my girlfriend around 11pm at night and I saw a black cat which was absolutely huge.

“It was the size of a large dog, however, was very lean and had a glossy jet black coat. I witnessed it, sat next to my girlfriend.”

Lorry driver Allan Simmons claims to have seen something similar when driving near Gurney Slade and thought for a fleeting moment he had managed to catch the creature on his dash-cam.

Mr Simmons said: “I was driving my lorry out of Gurney Slade back to the depot in Chilcompton around 3.30pm in a heavy hail storm.

“As I got to the brow of the hill before the Old Down Inn, I clearly saw a large black cat run from the field on my right straight through the hedge, across the road and into the opposite field.”

Sarah Kamette, who lives in St Johns Road in Timsbury, believes she saw a similar animal at around the same time. While struggling to get to sleep the night of the encounter, she decided to get up and make herself a drink.

Ms Kamette explained: “I was not sleeping well as was up having a cup of tea about 3am. My security light went off as I was going back to bed.

“I looked out of my bedroom window to see a very large animal strolling into my neighbour’s front garden.

“I thought to myself, ‘wow, that looks like a jaguar’, as it had a very distinctive long S-shaped tail.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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