February has been a chaotic time for my research into exotic cats across the south-east, and one particular animal always makes great headline. The ‘beast of Bluewater’, a black leopard, has been seen a handful of times since January this year, and in February the Gravesend Messenger were eager to tie a set of mysterious footprints to the big cat. However, the tracks, which were discovered by four golfers whilst playing at Southern Valley Golf Club were nothing of the sort.
One of the witnesses, a Mr Bowles, photographed the tracks which he’d found during the morning in a frosty bunker. The impressions, when compared to a size 10 footprint, measured almost as long, and showed four claws on each ‘paw’, but an elongated heel. The prints were dismissed as belonging to a badger by a local badger expert, and the witness sent the images to Howletts Zoo, who told him they were probably made by a German Shepherd dog! However, after looking through many sets of tracks, I believed the impressions resembled those made by a wolverine, or another member of the mustelid family, the Fisher!
These animals are around two to three-feet in length, whilst the wolverine can reach up to four-feet. Mr Bowles mentioned that whatever made the tracks walked on all fours, and was roughly four-feet in length, the indentations of the fore-paws being slightly smaller than the rear. I sent the images to Richard Freeman who mentioned also that a wolverine could well be the answer, and mentioned that although such animals have five claws, the fifth is not always evident in tracks. There have been no local reports of such an animal, but I would like to know what everyone else thinks.