Calls to police reveal North East big cat epidemic...if you believe them
Pumas and panthers have made the North East their prowling ground – if you believe the public.
Freedom of Information requests showed officers have looked into 17 reports of big cats in Cleveland, Northumbria and County Durham since 2011.
They range from a train driver near Stockton who saw a puma from his cab, to a “very large black animal prowling [the] perimeter fence of a school” near Killingworth.
Morpeth is a particular hotspot, with two black cat sightings in spring 2011, and another in June 2012.
But experts said the evidence for big cats in Britain was shaky at best and that most sightings were probably “mistaken identity”.
However, Ian Bond, an ecologist from Darlington who has sifted through over 200 big cat reports, said he would be surprised if there weren’t some real sightings out there.
He said: “Over the years I’ve had good, plausible sightings by people who are familiar with wildlife and had something to judge the scale by.
“Last year, customs seized eight big cats being smuggled into the country illegally.
“Who’s to say they seize all of them?”read more