In 2011 more than 180 reports of so-called 'big cats' were received by Kent Big Cat Research, the latest batch coming from Sevenoaks (lynx), Gravesend (black leopard), Maidstone (black leopard) and a fox kill found by witness James Mitson near Tunbridge Wells where previously deer kills and leopard scat had been found. The fox, which was found in a field during early December appeared fresh but when the witness returned to the carcass it had been stripped. This kill was not the work of a scavenging fox - the fur had been rasped, ribs chewed and occasional puncture marks were found on the flesh, there were no tufts of fur or mess around the carcass - the hallmark of a large cat. The area of the find is currently under investigation. In November 2011 a deer had been hit by a car in the Bromley area. A witness swerved to avoid the carcass but when he returned the next day the carcass had been stripped. Puma rarely eat prey they have not killed, but a leopard would most certainly feast on road kill.
In 2011 more than 80 reports were also received from Sussex (some of these may be included in a book, 'Mystery Animals Of...Sussex', which Neil Arnold is currently writing), and there were also 30 reports received from London and its outskirts, including 53 reports from Surrey. 57% of sightings received from the 189 Kent sightings concerned what appeared to be black leopard, 28% described puma, 11% lynx, the rest were Jungle Cat. Deer, fox, domestic cat and livestock kills were investigated throughout the county, paw print casts taken from varying sites, leopard scat found on eight occasions and also leopard hair found - two hairs were found on a sheep carcass near Rolvenden, a few miles from Ashford.
Sadly, the year was tainted by sightings of a 'white tiger' and 'lion' elsewhere in the country - the fact that these stories even made the news is a worrying factor. Such stories also make a mockery of decent research. Strangely, although exotic cats have been photographed, filmed, shot dead, and run over in the past, and all over the country, there is still an alarming amount of scepticism. Sceptics continually argue that there is no evidence such animals exist despite the already mentioned hair, scat, paw prints and kills.
What the future holds remains to be seen - some 'big cat' researchers, rather bizarrely, don't seem to want this so-called mystery solved - maybe they feel that if such a situation is resolved then they would no longer have a hobby to maintain. Worryingly, sightings of so-called 'big cats' are still relegated to folklore alongside ghosts and UFOs, and the Loch Ness 'monster'. This is down to the fact that despite some police, agricultural, zoological interest, on the whole the British 'big cat' situation is simply not accepted by authorities. This is quite understandable in the sense that if such an enigma is officially investigated then it would cost a lot of money - but all the while there are no attacks on humans (only a handful of alleged attacks have taken place and these are all open to debate) then the authorities may feel there's no need to create unwanted hysteria. The major issue is that farmers ARE losing sheep - but not at an alarming rate. Members of the public are losing domestic animals such as cats and dogs - many cases have been investigated where cats and dogs have been stripped clean - but there is no red alert - and when there is, it is usually press related.
Whilst it's important that sightings continue to be collated and evidence collected, 'big cats' in Britain are at a stalemate...until the next exaggerated story hits the local newspapers. A vicious circle indeed, as are the theories which continue to mention phantasmal animals, prehistoric survivors, unknown species, government cover ups etc. No wonder the existence for 'big cats' in Britain is continually scoffed at.
Photo's by James Mitson December 2011 showing fox before and after.