BECKY KEANE takes a look at mysterious big cat sightings of North West England
Big cat sightings in England have been documented since the 1760s, but the introduction of Dangerous Wild Animal Act 1976 saw the frequency of sightings significantly increase. It is said the introduction of the act, which made it a crime to own any of the animals listed, prompted some people to release their pets into the wild.
Witness testimonies, photo evidence, killed livestock and big cat remains have been put forward as evidence but many still refuse to believe in their existence.
In 2011 a big cat was spotted roaming on a housing estate in Lancashire, the animal was described a cross between a tiger, cheetah and leopard. In May 2014 it was reported 35 large big cat sightings had been reported to police across the North West and the borders of Lancashire.; two cats were reported to be roaming the valleys of Ramsbottom and Helmshore, witnesses described what they believed to be Jaguar and a large Panther- type cat.
A man contacted the police on four occasions within 6 months claiming to have seen a 6 foot long – puma type creature, “very large, muscular black cat with a square head”, during one incident he also claimed the animal had followed him and growled. A Lower Darwen security guard came forward to say he had witnessed a large golden coloured cat whilst working a night shift.
With big cat sightings becoming more prominent, the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animal Act has certainly provided a possible explanation of why hundreds claim to have witnessed these big cats roaming all over the UK. Or is simply that regular wild and domesticated cats are being mistaken for big cats by people with overactive imaginations?