Sunday 29 May 2011

Sussex black leopard

"We live on the banks of the Cuckmere river just next to Alfriston, a few miles from Polegate, and as I drove across a bridge over the Cuckmere just near our house earlier this year, coming towards me on the road and caught in the headlights was what looked like a very large black cat – to me it looked elegant, sleek and somewhat puma like. I slowed down as I neared it, and it snuck under a railing and went into the undergrowth by the river. Of course I guess it could have been a black dog, such as a black Labrador, as it was about the same size as a lab, but it certainly looked much more cat like than that. I remember its eyes in the headlights being very reflective, and I think they reflected green, though its a while ago now and I cant be sure that I've remembered that correctly – but we have two dogs, and I remember thinking that the eyes didn’t look anything like our dogs eyes when reflected in lights.

We have about twelve acres of fields or thereabouts, with some six hundred years of river frontage, the frontage being all very overgrown as it is not grazed or cut at all and therefore providing good undisturbed cover for animals... hence the probable mink and stoats that I’ve seen, and the otter that someone fishing on our river bank early one morning believes that they saw. Whether a big cat passes by from time to time, who knows, but it could be possible, and there are some signs of a large predator of some sort having been here on more than one occasion. The nearest sheep to us are probably a mile or so away – but on a couple of occasions we have had what I think were large chunks of sheep vertebra (18in to two feet sections) and a sheep’s pelvis left in the field, so whatever brought them there must have carried them quite some distance. No doubt it could have been a fox, as there are vast numbers of fox and rabbits in the area, but whatever it was would have to have been quite sizeable to have carried such a large chunk of sheep, and somehow to me it just didn’t feel like the sort of thing a fox would have done, especially with so many rabbits in the area!"

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