Sunday, 25 November 2018

CARL WRITES: Scottish Big Cats Explained

For decades, people across Scotland have consistently reported observing large mysterious black creatures prowling rural areas and quite back lanes. Many critics dismiss such observations as exaggerated reports of domestic cats and/or misidentified dogs, while many eyewitnesses maintain that large exotic felids are indeed stalking Scotland.

As mentioned, most experts maintain it’s extremely unlikely that any breeding takes place in the UK, claiming the animals reported are very likely released (post Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976), or escaped from captivity.

“As of December 2016, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has received twenty seven reports of exotic cats which escaped from private collections since 1975”.

Felicity the Puma

The most famous, verified Scottish case was that of a puma (Puma concolor) named Felicity captured alive in a trap by farmer Ted Nobel at Cannich, near Drumnadrochit by Loch Ness, in 1980. When her capture was reported it sparked a media sensation. Felicity’s capture followed a string of reports which dated back as far as 1976, and local farmers (including Mr Nobel) had also reported livestock mutilations on various occasions until the capture.

Felicity’s case is often claimed to have been a staged event, with reports at the time suggesting she was a tame animal, and that she was previously someone’s pet.

This kind of negative statement altogether misses the point when we admit that the vast majority of British ‘big cat’ reports describe escapees and illegally released animals. A captured puma in the UK is still a captured puma regardless of its provenance, and guarantees that, at least for a while, large non native felids were certainly roaming wild in Britain!

Following her capture, Felicity was taken to The Highland Wildlife Park, where she became a popular tourist attraction until her death in 1985. Finally she was mounted and can still be viewed in the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.

The Cupar Roe Deer Carcass

On the night of June 16th 2001, Ralph Barnett was driving home from Dundee to Cupar, and when rounding a sharp bend in the road, he switched his headlights to full beam, illuminating a big dark coloured creature in the beams. The mysterious animal quickly leapt away out of sight. As it did, Barnett realised that this cat had been feeding on the carcass of a Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) which the remains of which were still lying in the middle of the road.

Barnett called the local police who attended the scene “in significant numbers”.

The police decided not to retain the carcass and it was unfortunately dumped at the roadside. Barnett took some excellent photographs however.

The deer in the photographs seems to have been killed by asphyxiation – it showed bulging eyes, open mouth with protruding tongue, and clotted blood pooled on the side of the face, and the eyeballs were ruptured and still relatively moist. There was also a series of sub-parallel lacerations on the side of the neck that closely resembled a large cats claw marks.

The Beast of Banff

2007 saw the so called ‘Beast of Banff’. The creature was described as being “five feet long and three feet high”. It walked across the path of a man who was staying at the Banff Springs Hotel over the holiday period as he was out walking near the hotel on Hogmanay, according to the Banffshire Journal.

The Argyll Panther

PC Chris Swallows, an off-duty Ministry of Defence police dog handler took a video after witnessing ‘a panther-sized big cat’ on a nearby railway line in Helensburgh, Argyll in 2009. This video (which can be easily found on YouTube) shows what is probably a domestic cat filmed on a railway line at a low, deceptive camera angle.

2001, 2008, 2013, and 2015 saw the so called ‘Edzell Panther’. This large cat-like animal was said to be roaming Angus, reported near the A90 near Edzell and Fettercairn Road.

And finally...

More sightings were reported in August (2018) of what was claimed to be a large black cat which has been observed stalking in and around Bonnyrigg in Midlothian in recent years – see CFZ Mystery Cats Study Group 30/08/18.

There clearly has been (and probably still remains) large exotic felids (pumas and leopards?) living wild in the more remote areas of Scotland. The evidence for such creatures is relatively good and I expect there to be further verified cases documented in future.

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