The quaint countryside of England is where eyewitnesses claim to see giant feline beasts, also known as “British Big Cats”, in sightings confirmed by video evidence. Their bodies can be seven feet long, and they have proved a threat to livestock, and to man.
A million years ago, the British Isles were home to a large variety of predatory cats, including Tigers, Jaguars and Pumas. Ten thousand years past, leopards and lions were common, as well as the Lynx, which according to radiocarbon dating, hunted here in the forest, and on the moor, as recently as the fifth century. This could only explain the anomalous big cats roaming the UK, if a breeding population of these animals was successful in surviving to the present day.
Or was the breeding population established by the British themselves? In the nineteen sixties and seventies, it was a sign of prestige to own a large exotic cat, and they could be kept as pets in Britain without regulation. This changed in 1976, when the government signed into law, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, which required owners to license their exotic pets, and have their animals covered by liability insurance, at a combined cost, of several thousand pounds.
But there was a loophole in the law. There was no prohibition against the release of pets into the wild. Instead of following regulations, some owners of big cats have freely confessed, they set their dangerous pets free, in the countryside. If the number of released pets were large enough to create a breeding pool, this would explain the evidence of giant felines in the wild.
This is not the conspiracy theory you might suspect. There are many cases where big cats were found. In 1980, following several years of sightings of a big cat, with a sandy coat, a Puma was trapped in Inverness. In 1989, a jungle cat was found on the side of a road in Shropshire. In 1991, after the disappearance of fifteen sheep within two weeks, a Lynx was captured in Norwich. In 1994, a Leopard which was fond of hunting chickens and ducks, was taken on the Isle of Wight. In 2001, following a chase by veterinarians and the police, across school playing fields and between blocks of apartments, a Lynx was caught in the suburbs of London.
In the 1980’s, the farmers of North Devon lost over 200 head of livestock, mostly sheep, to a mysterious predator they call “the Beast of Exmoor”. When the farmers started losing their lambs, the Dulverton West Foxhounds were called in, to see if they could track down the culprit. They failed, as the hounds, which were bred to pursue foxes, declined to follow the scent of a feline. The locals soon became so fearful of the beast, that the government sent in sharpshooters from the Royal Marines, to find the predator, before it could threaten the lives of children. The exercise was called “Operation Beastie”, with sharpshooters scouring the village and surrounding hills, dispersed throughout pastures and fields, in search of the creature. Some of the snipers claim to have fleetingly seen the beast, but none quick enough to get off a shot. Their commanding officer, said that the quarry behaved with high, almost human, intelligence, always moving “with surrounding cover amongst hedges and woods”. During the operation there were no reported attacks on livestock. After the Royal Marines were recalled from the field, the beast resumed its stalking of sheep.
One could not provide a better environment for large predatory felines than the British Isles… temperate climate, combined with an abundance of prey. Over two thousand sightings were reported last year. Officially, the government denies the existence of anomalous big cats, perhaps because it is so difficult to find and eliminate them. Of all dangerous predators, the feline is the most likely, and best able, to hide itself in the wild.
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