Kent continues to report mysterious Alien Big Cat sightings, sparking curiosity and scepticism, writes NEIL NIXON
Despite consistent scepticism about the existence of British big cats the sightings still roll in, the theories abound, and certain places remain hot, or at least very warm, spots regarding reports of activity.
Kent probably qualifies as very warm, rather than the wild frenzy of the west country.
As long ago as 2006, a significant survey, reported in BBC Wildlife Magazine listed the top 10 counties for alien big cat (ABC) events, Kent snuck into 8th place having collected 92 sightings in the year covered by the article.
Kent has a sporadic tradition of such sightings, the most celebrated recently being a 2013 photograph of a reported “pumpard” (rare cross between a puma and a leopard) snapped in an undisclosed location and featured in a documentary film.
There may well be many misidentifications of more mundane cats in a county that combines protected green areas with a relatively high level of population.
It isn’t hard for domestic cats to stray into woodlands whilst hunting and many fields in the county are close to main roads, making random and rapid sightings a regular occurrence.
There have also been some strange, as in amusing, occurrences, none-more so than an event three years ago.
There was genuine alarm when walkers in a wood near Ightham reported a big cat, a large police operation including armed officers and a helicopter found a life sized statue of a tiger, the handiwork of Juliet Simpson, an 85-year-old who probably should have informed more people before gifting her creation to the local landscape.
Large cats have appeared near the coast, notably at Kingsnorth and Hampton in the last decade.
Witnesses in both cases were adamant they were looking at something larger and more muscular than a domestic cat, though the most consistent 21st century reports are a spate close to Maidstone around 20 years ago.
South of Maidstone the villages of Headcorn and Staplehurst were the closest settlements to sightings that saw one witness experience two separate encounters with – apparently – the same large black cat on different days.
The north downs to the north of Maidstone have also been the setting for a series of reports, this is land rich in woodland and other cover for a hunting animal, along with abundant rabbits.
The north downs is an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) ensuring many quiet locations and protected enclaves. The land is home to many sheep, though no confirmed attacks have ever occurred.
Elsewhere in the UK the rogue big cats captured or killed and subsequently examined all appear to have been exotic creatures kept as pets and either released or escaped.
Speculation in Kent suggests similar causes for the reports, and it is known that the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 led to some owners releasing rather than reporting big cats previously kept as pets. Offering green spaces close to London Kent may well have been a popular release point for rich people’s treasured big cats.
Kent Alien Big Cat Sightings Suggest Genuine Mystery
The Kent sightings remain frequent enough to suggest some genuine mystery, and yet frustratingly inconsistent, the best bet being that the collected reports are skewed by many misidentifications.
Generally, many people encountering something strange or paranormal feel compelled to estimate a size of what they see and a distance between themselves and the object.
Other branches of paranormal research, notably ufology, frequently find such estimates, however sincere, to be probably wrong.
In ABC reports, this often boils down to a large domestic animal misidentified as something more exotic.
I once had a photograph of a local “Lynx” sent my way, the animal in question was almost certainly a Skogkatt (large, broad shouldered and furry, a rarity amongst pet cats but very much a domesticated animal).
That said, I had my own fleeting glimpse of something large and black disappearing into undergrowth near Detling during the pandemic, which prompted phone calls to the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ).
The upshot of the calls and further close inspection of the land suggested I’d likely spotted a very poorly badger (there was clear evidence of badger setts near the sighting).
The pandemic saw CFZ inundated with reports, largely because opportunist foragers and hunters of the animal kingdom were profiting from empty roads to roam more widely, with the result that large animals like wild boar were appearing in new locations.
I spoke to one acquaintance who lives close to the site of my sighting who told me that in the 1950s his own father had a lengthy observation of a cat clearly larger than anything easily kept in a home on land less than 100 metres from the woodland in which I’d briefly seen something strange.
So currently, we have more reports than answers in Kent. All the more reason to keep looking, then.
Have you seen any Alien Big Cats in Kent? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!