Sunday 12 June 2011

Kent Messenger article on 'big cat' trigger camera photo

Over the last few months Kent Big Cat Research have been investigating reports of a large, black cat in the Ulcombe area of rural Maidstone. Eye witness Sharon Ramsden had caught a large cat on film after setting up a trigger camera in her back garden. Whilst most of the evidence for a large cat in the area remained inconclusive the photo (which isn't as clear in the newspaper report of 10th June 2011) shows a large, dark-coloured cat. The animal, if judging by the fence, is just over three-feet in length. The main issue with the photograph is that the animal appears to be sitting on its haunches but there is no ground or anything stable enough for it to be sitting on. Another theory is that the animal is stretching up the fence (the tulip fencing is three-feet in height) and peering towards an area where Sharon keeps a pet bird.

The animal in the photo, which is also distorted by shadow, could be a large feral cat, or according to one zoologist, a sub-adult black leopard.


Donna B said...

Neil - My friend and I saw this cat at very close range we were cycling about 3 weeks ago down Boynton Court Lane (East Sutton)not far from Ulcombe and I was close to the woodland where backing out of the bushes was what i initially thought was a small black dog short coated and stocky it came out into the road we saw it very closely its ears were clipped (lynx like but jet black) and it darted back into the undergrowth so quite shy we both saw it and commented on what a big cat it was...lots of rabbits about at the moment so a possibility i guess

Donna B said...

Cyling 3 weeks ago along Boynton Court Lane with a friend (close to ulcombe) when a large cat backed out of the undergrowth it made us both jump and initially as I watched it back out I thought it was a dog, with a smooth black coat when it emerged it was a rather large black cat with very clipped ears (lynx like) it bolted back into the bushes pretty quickly but spooked us as much as we did it!!

stevethehydra said...

I suspect this is a (whether intentional or not) perspective trick photo - it's hard to tell with such a poor quality copy as this newspaper scan, but somehow to me the cat "looks" much closer to the camera than the fence.

This could explain why it seems to be sitting but there is nothing for it to sit on - it's not actually by the fence, but sitting on something much closer. The vegetation in front of the cat doesn't look anything like the vegetation near the fence in the photo with the woman for scale.

Also, the head shape of this animal is all wrong for a leopard (or anything in that sizerange), but just right for a domestic cat. I think this is a large, lean domestic cat, seen at night and mistakenly thought to be further away, and thus bigger, than it really is.

Neil A said...

Thank you 'shiva' for your comments. Interestingly, this photo (which I have blown up A4, and far clearer than the newspaper cutting - I also have the original photo which shows the cat in the distance, as the photo has been taken by a trigger cam'at the bottom of the garden) has been submitted to several zoologists and the like. A majority have stated that this animal is a young leopard - I'm not sure what to make of it. Regarding your thoughts - the cat is close to the fence, the line down the middle is a clothing pole, I have visited the site with several people and taken measurements. The fence is three-feet high. The photo of the woman in the newspaper is not relevant to the cat photo.
The head of the animal is distorted by shadow and the tulip fencing behind it. The head is exactly right for a leopard, but again, you are only going y the rough scan.If you send me your email address I will happily send you the original image so you can get a better idea. This is certainly not an intentional trick photo, and whatever this animal is, has left large paw prints several inches across and also scat.
As for it being a domestic cat which is closer to the camera, there would be nothing for it to sit on closer to the camera, and domestic cats have been photographed in the same garden and do not resemble this animal.

Carl said...

Seems to me that the cat in this photo could well be Pantherine but like you say Neil it is very hard to be sure going by this copy. I can understand Shiva thinking the cat to be closer to the cam than claimed but going by the Quality of research obtained from your previous investigations I believe your size and perspective estimations are likely to be correct and it would be very interesting to see a better quality image. I have noticed that there are many cases of cats that Morphologically resemble Leopards but have anatomical differences, most obviously there size - the last encounter I heard of was from a very professional and highly credible colleague of mine who is very unlikely to be mistaken. Surely these animals cant all be sub-adults = I don't believe so. Is it possible the neo-British spp. have some sort of Diminutive form and is this variation at any specific or indeed sub - specific level - I mean,(and this is just speculation) could we looking at the British Pigme Leopard.
Great post Neil.

Neil A said...

Thanks Carl. If anyone wants to see an A4 blown up version of the image pleas email me via the address on the main page. I think it's only natural that a majority of eyewitness descriptions will be slightly inconsistent as many people are not use to seeing a leopard in the wilds of the UK. Often witneses are in awe, and only take in a few details. I receive many reports of smaller black cats which I strongly believe are cubs.
Going by constency - and that's the key in all of this research - I see no evidence to suggest pigme leopards, as a majoroty of my reports concern cats between 4 - 7 feet in length. Carl, drop me your email and I will send you the image.