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Black Panthers in the UK

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on January 20th, 2007

We don’t spend much time here at Cryptomundo talking about the black panthers of Britain. Being Americans, we focus on the cases of black panthers seen here in the US. Nonetheless, there are many reports from the UK of large black cats as well.

The following articles are from the Bridgewater Mercury from the last several months.

Hunt for the ‘Beast of Sedgemoor’
August 16, 2006

The search is on to solve Bridgwater’s greatest mystery of modern times – the "Beast of Sedgemoor".

A team of dedicated investigators armed with night vision cameras is aiming to hunt down the giant panther-like creature, sighted so often in the early 1990s.

Conclusive proof of the Beast’s existence has never been secured, but neither has a plausible explanation as to why so many people claim to have encountered it. A team of researchers from Channel Five’s Big Cat Search is aiming to change that.

The trio travel the country searching for the elusive mammal and are now hot on the trail of Sedgemoor’s very own family of sheep-murdering wildcats.

Researcher Mark James said: "A number of cats have been spotted in the Somerset area over the years and we are following up leads that a family of large black cats could be living in the Huntworth and Bridgwater areas.

"We have been contacted by a man in North Petherton who used to keep sheep and over the years has had lots go missing inexplicably, so much so that he’s had to give up keeping them.

"We also know that there were a number of sightings at Enmore Park Golf Club."

A frenzy of fear and excitement gripped the town in 1992 when a young Cossington family was attacked in their car by a "huge black creature with massive teeth".

Days later, sightings were reported across the district of a black panther prowling fields in the area but despite countless attempts to capture the beast on camera, a clear picture of the animal in action has never been forthcoming.

Over the past decade, sporadic reports have been submitted to the Mercury – all claiming sightings of the cat in different surroundings at different times.

Mervyn Slocombe saw a wild cat at Enmore Park Golf Club in 1992.

He told the Mercury last week: "I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was on the practice green and it ran past next to the hedge.

"The only way I can describe it is totally black and about the size of a dog – but definitely a cat."

Former club managing secretary Dave Weston said: "We took a picture of a paw print on the course next to a collie dog’s paw print and it was four times the size. I’m certain it was on our course for about two weeks, but not seen since."

The most common explanation put forward is that large animals were released into the wild to be hunted for sport.

The team is hoping to air the first footage of the Beast of Sedgemoor but needs Mercury readers’ help.

Mark went on: "We want people to keep their eyes open for any wild cat they see in the area.

"Last month we were in Weston searching the golf course there after people reported hearing a high-pitched roar which is how a panther reportedly roars."

Beast of Sedgemoor ‘proof’
August 29, 2006

Conclusive proof that the "Beast of Sedgemoor" once roamed around Bridgwater may finally have been un-earthed by the Mercury.

Stawell couple Les and Juliet Helps this week recounted the moment when they saw the black panther-like creature as it stalked its prey near their home on the Polden Hills.

And the chance recording of the incident on a hand-held camera by their son, Chris, 15 years ago could be the only time the mysterious beast has been caught on film.

Les said: "My son was filming a vixen with her cubs in the field behind our house and we saw this black thing come out of the trees.

"We could hear the vixen screaming at this animal to try and get it away from her cubs – it was a terrible noise.

"We could see it was a cat of some sort and about the size of a Labrador with a big tail. It began circling around the vixen with its lashing tail and looked ready to attack."

The whole sequence was saved on Betamax video before being transferred onto VHS. The quality of picture has suffered because of the transfer but the image of the big cat can still be made out.

In the two-minute sequence, seen by the Mercury, a large black creature with a long tail can be seen in a stand-off with the vixen.

Unfortunately, a still image of the tape was not available at the time of going to press.

The quest for concrete evidence of the Beast’s existence began two weeks ago when a team of researchers from Channel Five’s Big Cat Search appealed for Mercury readers to contact them if they had seen the animal prowling around the area.

Mark James said the response from Bridgwater had been "brilliant" and gave the team some important leads in the making of the programme. He said: "We went to Cornwall to film for three days last week and when we returned we had ten messages on our hotline, all of which were sightings in the Bridgwater area. The response was brilliant, thank you very much to everyone who contacted us."

Earlier this month, Mervyn Slocombe revealed that he saw a wild cat at Enmore Park Golf Club in 1992 and a number of other callers have contacted the Mercury to share their experiences.

Anyone who sees what they think is a big cat can ring a designated hotline on 0870-3339083 or visit the website.

Beast back on the prowl?
January 18, 2007

The Beast of Sedgemoor could be back on the prowl – that’s according to a Bridgwater man who saw a "giant cat-like creature" in woods on the Quantock Hills.

Mercury readers joined the hunt for the mysterious wild animal – believed to be a black panther – back in August last year, after the Mercury highlighted a TV investigation into the claims.

No sightings had been made of any big cats in the Bridgwater area for nearly four years, until Wednesday night (January 17).

Stephen Rolph couldn’t believe his eyes as he made his way up Buncombe Hill on the Taunton side of the Quantocks.

"At first I thought it was a dog but as I got closer it was obvious it was no pet," the 45-year-old told the Mercury.

"It was around four feet long with a three feet tail and a stocky build. It was no more than 30 metres away.

"I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I
had to pull over but it ran off as I stopped. I suppose if I was feeling brave I could have chased it."

The Alfoxton Road resident, who works at BFF on Bristol Road, said he had heard things said about big cats at Enmore Park Golf Club where he regularly plays.

Mervyn Slocombe claims to have seen a wild cat on the practice green at Enmore Park in 1992 and a cast was made of a huge footprint left on the course.

Stephen continued: "It was only 4.10pm and the light was good – I didn’t even have the headlights on.

"I thought people who might have animals in the field nearby or walk their dogs in that area should be aware."

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.


5 Responses to “Black Panthers in the UK”

  1. kittenz responds:

    I would be much more inclined to believe that the animals are big cats if they were not almost invariably reported as being black.

    There are only a few places in the world where black cats – other than black domestic cats – are relatively common, and even in those areas they are more rare than their normally colored brethren.

    I think it likely that the great majority of these sightings are cases of mistaken identity.

    That being said, I do not dismiss the possibility that there are big cats living wild in parts of Great Britain. Harrod’s was known to sell lion cubs in its London store in years past, and many people in Great Britain have kept big cats as pets, just as they have and continue to do here. If a cat here or there escaped or was released, that could account for some of the sightings, especially those in more populated areas. It’s difficult to imagine a wild, breeding population resulting from a cat released here and there, though.

    Of course, it may be that not just one cat, but pairs or groups of cats have been released together sometime in the past. In that case, if they were released in an area with suitable cover and prey, a breeding population could have resulted, and maybe that happened more than once, in more than one location. The animals being seen now could be dispersers from those populations.

    Black pumas have not been proven to exist, but black leopards are very well known, and leopards are very adaptable and can flourish undetected near humans, even near cities. This is known to be true from documented examples of wild leopards in parts of Africa and Asia living near or even within large cities.

    Black is a recessive trait in leopards, so both parents have to carry at least one copy of the recessive gene for black in order for black offspring to occur. Two spotted leopards, each of which carry the black as a recessive, can produce black cubs, spotted cubs which carry the black recessive, and spotted cubs without the black recessive. Theoretically, two black leopards bred together will produce only black cubs, because in order for a leopard to be black, it has to have two copies of the black recessive and therefore does not have any copies of the dominant gene for a spotted coat.

    So if a pair, or better yet a few pairs, of black leopards adapted to living in the wild, within several generations a small breeding population of black leopards could become established. Maybe that is what is happening in parts of Great Britain.

  2. sausage1 responds:

    Perhaps I can throw some light on this for our American friends.

    People have been seeing the tan coloured ‘Surrey Puma’ in South London and the county of Surrey since the 1960s. My father and I have both caught sight of one of the black cats in Norfolk, about 80 miles north of London. My ex father in law, a former gamekeeper turned pest controller, has also seen one nearby, although this was tan rather than black.

    There are rabbit, deer, muntjac and various smaller rodents that might provide food. I have never heard of sheep or cattle being taken.

    As Kittenz says, it was not too difficult to buy exotic animals, including big cats, in the UK for many years. They are traditionally associated with coats of arms etc amongst the gentry, and were status symbols for some. Many were kept as pets, for example in the Tower of London by past monarchs. It may be that quite a few cats were let loose by unscrupulous or impoverished owners when it became necessary to have them licensed and to have minimum conditions for keeping them. These conditions are outlined by an Act of Parliament called ‘Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.’ It is possibly more than coincidence that the number of sightings started to soar in the 70s and 80s after this prohibitive and costly act was introduced. This act can be viewed at this site.

    Of course this still does not explain the unusually high percentage of black cats compared to tan or brown cats being seen. As well as some actual big black cats it could be due to misidentification, or possibly members of rare Scottish wild cats that have strayed further south.

  3. mystery_man responds:

    Kittenz and Sausage1, fascinating and thought provoking posts.

  4. MBFH responds:

    Yes, even on our little island we do get reports of ABCs, and plenty of them. If you’re interested in finding out a bit more you could do worse that try some of the following:

    British Big Cats Society
    Big Cats in Britain
    UK Big Cats History

    Quite a few big cats have been captured or shot over the years, most are suspected to have been released – including an overweight puma that was caught in Scotland. She was named Felcity and liked to be scratched behind the ears apparently!

    A good recent book outlining many cases in the UK is Mystery Big Cats by Merrily Harpur. Her conclusions for any unexplained sightings, including those where descriptions of big cats do not match any recognised species, are somewhat Keelian but don’t let that put you off if you’re not a fan of that theory.

  5. jena responds:

    To all those who do not believe previous sighting I can verify I was driving through Burrowbridge at 2am saturday morning 13/09/08. Whilst coming over the bridge after trafic lights driving towards Taunton a black panther ran across the road in front of me and ran up the road that runs parallel with the river towards Bridgewater direction.



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