Big cats in Britain - is this article accurate?

I was around on Wikipedia and found the article on phantom big cats over here in Britain. Just to point out for any non-Brits who might not know, that there are some kind of big cats/dogs living in Britain is kinda our version of Bigfoot, although not as famous or widespread.

Anyway, the article seems to be pretty clear that there* are* such animals.

Wikipedia’s accuracy isn’t always fantastic, of course, so I wondered if this was a reasonable article or (more likely, IMHO) someone very pro-phantom cats has written it. Other than the questionable accuracy it seems to be a pretty well-written page.

I saw an episode of National Geographic’s Wild Things on the big cats of England. They found some tracker/trapper dude from Canada who is meant to be a real badass at tracking/trapping cats of all types. They bring him to Britain and he goes about trying to find ANY evidence of their existance whatsoever.

In addition to being unable to track or trap one, he meets up with several of the leading “experts” or “researchers” and basically debunks every single piece of evidence they have. For example, the countless sheep/cow mutilation pictures clearly indicate something other than a cat attack. We learn that cats don’t tear and rip flesh in that way, but rather puncture when they bite down on a neck. Many of the tracks or footprints he finds that look promising are determined to also be non-feline due to aspects of the claw and pad structure.

This guy is no scientist, but he clearly knows his business. At the end he, of course, notes that just because they didn’t find anything doesn’t mean they don’t exist. But aside from eyewitness sightings of people swearing that they’ve clearly seen a large black cat, there’s no physical evidence to be had and most of the stuff touted as “evidence” is misinformed or misinterpreted.

Granted it’s just TV, albeit non-fiction. Sorry for the antecdotal summary, I’m unable to find a link to the show details itself. However, if you have the National Geographic channel it seems you can catch it again on Monday July 24th. It can also be had from various BitTorrent sources.

The last time the Fortean Times did an ABC round up was 2002.

There are also eye-witness reports of a large creature in Loch Ness. :eek:

Of course there’s no physical evidence for that either…

It’s not quite the same order of phenomenon- whilst it’s arguable that a lot of sightings are fakes, hallucinations, perceptual glitches, and mistaken identity and the rest may be accounted for as escaped exotic pets or zoo animals, it’s far more plausible than a large plesiosaur-type aquatic monster - because we know there are such things as large cats extant elsewhere in the world today.

Besides, there is actually some physical evidence.
For example, video footage: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/136546.stm (OK, not very good or conclusive).
There was some other footage against snow that was more conclusively that of a large cat (IIRC it was analysed by zoologists who stated that the gait was indicative of size), but I can’t find anything about that online.

My understanding of the situation meshes with the Wikipedia article. There’s a substantial body of evidence supporting the existance of large cats in Britain, including the capture of feral animals, the killing of several animals, and a zillion sightings, includigng several sightings of mother cats with kittens. And the sightings are increasing, which is what you would expect if a population of large cats has become established in the relatively recent past. (Sightings of large cats in Britain seem to have begun in the 1960s.)

Basically, it’s reaching the point where it’s fair to ask if the skeptics aren’t just living in denial.

Awww, look at the liddle puddy-cat!!

Admittedly, the cat in that video doesn’t look a great deal bigger than a large domestic cat, and certainly the face is more ‘moggy’ than panther.
And of course there does not appear to be any context conclusively pinpointing the geographical location.

I wish I could find the other video; that was for certain a large cat (but again, may not be clear on the location)

That was my reaction.

Who let Fluffy out!?

It does look (only somewhat) larger than the average housecat, but there’s no way of telling from that shaky video because there’s no reference point other than the grass and some trees that can’t be judged for size either.

There’s a chapter on them in “The Ghost with Trembling Wings” by Scott Weidensaul (a good book, by the way). It seems that some people do take this seriously, but (according to Weidensaul) tThere has only been one documented specimen - a cougar caught in 1980, which looked like it had been recently released from captivity.

It’s clear that there are a certain (small, one assumes) number of big cats escaping from zoos and captivity which contribute to this issue, but the real controversy is whether there’s any feral breeding stock, especially after a lot of animals were let loose in 1976, after a law banning their ownership. Again, it’s taken seriously (because it really isn’t a ridiculous thought), but there’s no serious evidence for it.

Oh, and, about the Beast of Bodmin - the site at which the picture was taken was investigated, and the proportions are misleading. Again, according to Weidensaul, the trees are actually shrubs, leading us to believe that it was a large black housecat with a long neck.

This is a ridiculous suggestion. The moas ate them all.

Related to this is Illinois & Wisconsin’s Phantom Kangaroo population.

Yes, I mean it.

No, I’m not kidding.

There is (or was) a colony of wild Wallabies in Derbyshire.

I was going to mention them - in the Roaches, over on the border with Staffordshire, I remember seeing one about 20 years ago, you don’t here much tell of them these days I think the cold gradually got tp them.

How big were the captured / killed animals?

I have no problem accepting that people buy unsuitable pets (a friend of mine bought a baby crocodile :eek: ) and then panic + release them into the wild.
It’s just that sightings are not reliable evidence (since there have been far more sightings of UFOs for example).

As for ‘being in denial’, crop circles are regularly claimed as proof of alien visitation, despite the fact that a couple of men with boards and a rope can make one quickly.

Or perhaps not - there is a self-sustaining colony of wallabies on an island in Loch Lomond here in Scotland and they seem to cope well enough.

A few of my friends claim to have seen big cats in Scotland, and I remember at least one Jungle Cat being found dead on a road in Scotland. Not quite a panther, but not native either! I had a quick search on the BBC news website for a cite, but can’t find it. I did find this though - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/897370.stm

The Beast of Bala makes for entertaining reading!

The Wikipedia article lists 6 large cats (leopards and pumas, with one lion thrown in) that have been captured, killed, or found dead since 1975. Plus there are several other captures and kills of lynxes, leopard cats, jungle cats, and other lesser cats that nevertheless aren’t supposed to exist in Britain.

OK, here you’ve lost me. I cannot comprehend how you can put this in the same category as UFO sightings. Surely you will concede that exotic pets being released into the wild and surviving as a feral population is much more likely than extraterrestrials. Here in the United States we have hundreds, maybe thousands, of “introduced species” of plants and animals that have adapted to our climate quite nicely, often defying our efforts to wipe them out.

The answer is: we have a lot of speculation, some of it more well-informed than the rest, but no proof. When someone kills or captures one, we’ll know. Until then, we don’t.

Asking whether skeptics are ‘in denial’ doesn’t make sense. Skeptics go where the evidence leads and accept whatever there’s a good reason or good evidence to accept. If someone can prove there are big cats roaming around, so be it. But that day hasn’t arrived yet.

Also, you can’t settle an issue like this based on probability (eg suggesting big cats are more likely than the Loch Ness monster). Yes, there are more reasons to doubt the Ness story than the Big Cat story. But this doesn’t tell us anything about whether the Big Cat story is actually true.