Thursday, 10 January 2019

CARL WRITES: 25/12/18 - Stroud, Gloucestershire

Read the original story here.

Over the past five years there have been quite a few intriguing sightings of cougar-like animals reported from both Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, and possibly for good reason as both counties are situated reasonably close to the Forest of Dean which seems to be something of a hot spot for anomalous big cats apparently traveling across from South Wales. Worcestershire is located roughly North East of Hereford, which itself is located just North of Gloucestershire.

Watledge, where the observation took place, is approximately 35 miles South East of the Forest of Dean lying in one of the Stroud Valleys in the Cotswolds, itself a very rural and relatively unpopulated geographical area (the most credible eyewitness I have ever interviewed concerning British big cats (a wildlife biologist) also made an observation in the Cotswolds). I think the report made by Anna Terranova and her companion, and published by the Mirror, is certainly convincing enough to warrant further investigation. Although, it must also be possible they could have witnessed a debilitated fox (emaciated by illness or lack of food) and slightly overestimated its stature due to the distance of the observation, however, when taken at face value doesn’t seem very likely. Anna Terranova, a self proclaimed wildlife enthusiast from Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, stated that she and her friend had to do “a double take” as they couldn’t believe their eyes when they first observed the strange animal, which might imply this is a genuine observation of something unusual, as they both reacted in the same way and then independently came to the same conclusion while having sufficient time to make viable observations. “I had to strain my eyes at first...” Said Anna (implying a significant distance from their point of observation), and went on to describe the animal’s movements as “padding”. She reported the creature they observed was at least two to three feet tall which would make it large, even for a dog fox if it were one – this seems unlikely. Both witnesses also had the opportunity to compare the mystery animal’s dimensions with a rabbit observed close by, suggesting it was quite large, much larger than say a domestic cat and probably larger than a fox. Anna went on to say that they both stood and watched the animal for at least five minutes as it prowled about near a fence that is approximately waist height, again confirming to them the dimensions of the animal and giving them ample time to observe its feline behaviour. “From that distance it looked a dark chestnut brown” 

Foxes are often a chestnut colour, meaning colouration alone doesn’t confirm a cougar identity (Puma concolor), and it should be noted it would be difficult to be certain of any animal’s precise colouration from such a long (undisclosed) distance. They continued to watch the unknown mammal until it disappeared into some nearby woodland. We would certainly expect a fox to have a much shorter tail length than a cougar (though both often have noticeably bushy tails) and unfortunately the published article doesn’t suggest what aspect of the tail appeared feline. However, I presume it was very long in relation to head and body length and therefore quite un-fox like. It certainly doesn’t sound much like the average fox in winter months! I believe this is possibly a genuine report of a wild roaming cougar. It might even be the same animal that I investigated four years ago in Animals & Men (issue 52) though admittedly this is entirely speculative. Cougars are well know to travel great distances with individual males wandering anywhere from 50 – 150 square miles during their lifetimes, thus an individual roaming across three or four heavily wooded rural counties almost undetected over four years, is not unreasonable when we take into account expansive ranges and the notoriously illusive nature of P. concolor. Of course, it’s also possible this could be a completely different cougar (likely another escapee or illegal release) and maybe even a potential mate for the first! I’m prepared to suggest it’s possible this might be a genuine report and that a professional field investigation providing sufficient evidence, preferably biological, is required before making any further claims.
I will try and visit this location in the new year.

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