So as it's the end of the year I thought I'd share a few of my annual statistics regarding local 'big cat' sightings. Firstly, it's been more quiet this year again due to my lack of interest in appealing via newspapers but the cats are still being seen in the same areas as they were - or indeed their relatives were - around twenty or so years ago. Ashford, rural Gravesham, Sevenoaks, rural Maidstone, Canterbury feature heavily again with around 65% of the 122 reports received being melanistic leopards.
Puma make up around 20% of reports this year, the rest being lynx and a handful of possible Jungle Cats. I see no reason as to whether such populations are diminishing; sightings are reasonably consistent for each area. A majority of witnesses now report sightings online rather than via actual newspapers; this is due to the fact that in Kent there are far less newspapers doing the rounds and the subject is pretty much 'old hat'.
As each year goes by I'm out less and less due to writing commitments but if anyone wishes to join me on a few vigils please feel free to get in touch - just remember; it's highly unlikely we'll se a 'big cat' but may find some sort of evidence. I've also noticed this year a slight increase in online 'research' groups (in other words, groups formed by people who don't like certain opinion in one group so decide to form their own!!); a couple of which have tried to adapt on my KENT BIG CAT RESEARCH tag; whilst one seems to have vanished - doesn't surprise me considering the chap who ran it claimed to have had some 200 personal 'big cat' sightings!!!!!! (he must be the luckiest man on earth and yet never has a camera with him!)
Reports from Sussex have remained steady, and again consistent regards to three main species in certain areas and I've also received more reports from Surrey and rural London than last year. Sadly, video footage seems to be decreasing in quality and I'm seeing more blobs, blurs, domestic cats and foxes than ever - shame those who shot the footage haven't realised this yet!
I wouldn't say that deer kills are on the increase, it's just that this year more have been found by witnesses and reported. However, it's definitely a case of cats following the deer populations but feeding on rabbit, pheasant, pigeon and foxes when deer are not present. Sheep kills are neither up or down from last year; but as expected seem more common around lambing. Still trying to obtain permission to publish a certain photo of what appears to show a very large cat in Kent; but I'm not holding my breath...