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Saturday, August 08, 2009

DAVE SADLER WRITES: Big Cats in South Cheshire

Greetings from southeast Cheshire! I’ve been asked to write a blog by a certain Mr Freeman, and to be honest, this is my first blog entry outside that of the Unknown Phenomena Investigation Association.

My name is Dave Sadler. I formed the UPIA in 1998 after several years learning the basics and observing what I believe was the incorrect manner to deal with odd reports in the northwest of the UK. Most of the work covered by the organisation deals with the paranormal and UFOs. We do, however, research and actively investigate other areas within the paranormal sphere; one area in particular and one very close to myself, is the world of cryptozoology, and within the area I reside, in particular that of the Big Cat.

Now I could go in all manner of directions here but save teaching old granny to suck eggs, I won’t cover the last 40 years; instead I'll briefly offer a synopsis of reports and sightings from these here parts.

For them there beasties here lies some of the best countryside for the secretive felids to exist. I won’t suggest my thoughts and theories are perfect, but from the potential evidence gathered and collated my own views will be difficult to shift.

In January 2006 I decided to begin a programme of gathering testimonies to collate and cross-reference Big Cat sightings, after receiving ten reports from the Staffordshire moorlands via the UPIA website. Not expecting much in the way of witness reports I contacted all local media outlets who each ran similar editorials - The Stoke Evening Sentinel, BBC Radio Stoke, Signal Radio, The Leek Times and Post, the Cheadle Times and Post, the Uttoxeter Times and Post, as well as several other weekly columns - asking for information. The reply was phenomenal and having continued to advertise for additional tales (pardon the pun...), at this point the UPIA have received in excess of 300 separate incident reports via email, telephone and letter. Approximately 70% have been either explained or discounted due to lack of information. This leaves us with 95 reports of credible information.

Sightings are continuing to emanate from north Staffordshire, south Cheshire and the Peak District, of a panther-like animal, a lynx, puma and in one case, a lioness, which was found to be a rather large domestic cat, a Maine Coon.

My belief is that the animal is in existence in the wilds of the UK. I do not believe that there are a multitude of the beasts in our countryside; in fact probably very few are actually about. I also consider many sightings are misidentification; some may be domestic cats introduced into the wilderness and larger than the average size of their breeds. I have also found and logged a high volume of watercourses. Lakes, reservoirs, rivers, canals, streams and many tributaries exist. These offer a perfect area of travel, away from prying eyes and with large areas of dense foliage and forestry, areas we know but may not expect for animals to hide away from public view – the reason for my theory? Of the 95 reports, 67 occur within a short distance from these watercourses. Each have similar distinctive attributes; bigger than a large dog, with powerful hind quarters. Several of the sightings suggest a cat-like animal to be stalking deer; this in particular around the herd at Trentham gardens.

We have made contact and continue communications with the RSPCA, Staffs and Cheshire police, including both forces' wildlife liaison teams; this as well as Mark Fraser of Scottish Big Cats and Steve Mera of Manchester’s Association of Paranormal Investigation and Training, whose input have been invaluable.

One of the best reports was received on 05/03/07 by a witness in the Cheadle area of Staffordshire. After witnessing the hind quarters of an animal he was able to find tracks and photograph each. These are with the UPIA for any future use. The print was taken with 2 3-inch shot gun cartridges for scale. The witness, a vermin controller on land in the Totmonslow area, also reports the finding of 6 rabbit carcasses, ripped in half.

REPORTS VIA EMAIL

Regarding your recent investigations to large black cats in Staffordshire.

My experience was 4 and half years ago, whilst walking my dog (a border collie) on Hanley Forest Park, it was summertime and around 1800hrs. I was on a normal regular run with my dog when I stopped dead in my tracks as I saw about 50metres away in front of me a large black cat like animal which was about 4ft in length and 3ft in height with a large tail. I thought that ain't no normal cat. My dog didn't see it (thank god) and I shouted him to come to me which he did. The cat walked out of the grass at a slow pace, stopped, looked towards me for about 10 - 15 seconds then carried on walking into some longer grass. I made a hasty retreat back to my parked car.

On returning home I didn't report it as my partner took the mick and said I was seeing things.
Hope this has added some information to your enquiries.

A.S

Dave,

I have seen your letter posted in the sentinel and can tell you off two big cat sightings believed to be of a panther.

The first sighting occurred about June 2006 where a colleague whilst on duty as a Police Officer saw what he believed to be a panther or something similar in size run across the main road at Wetley Rocks near Cheddleton.

This happened at about 0430am and he caught the cat in his main beam and it appeared to glide across the road before jumping a wall and going into a field. He is absolutely adamant about what he saw but did not call it in over his radio as he at first couldn't believe what he had seen and thought he would be laughed at. (Interestingly this is relatively close, as in a few miles, to the Leek cattle market sightings)

The second occurred in 2005 where a Special Constable observed what he thought was a big cat similar to a panther on the edge of the Alton Towers Estate. He was off duty at the time and did not report it as he did not think he would be believed.

I won’t disclose their details to you until I have obtained their permission but they are very certain about what they saw and have no doubts at all.

Please let me know if this is of interest to you and how I could help further.

Regards

J.P.

Myself and the UPIA are continuing to monitor the environment with the hope of finding evidence of the events, and assist in the protection of the animal(s) and public. We have a database in operation, with details of sightings incorporated. As yet it is incomplete due to additional work both private and media-related.

Well, I think that’s a blog. At least I’ve attempted to offer background, first-hand accounts and theories behind some of the events. I hope I haven’t performed overkill, and thank CFZ for offering me the opportunity to write some of my thoughts for peer review.

Dave Sadler
http://www.upia.co.uk/

1 comment:

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

There are a couple of things which argue against large numbers of big cats in the British countryside, and both (whatever the Big Cat investigators would have you believe) are fairly solid.

Firstly, apart from chance observations by dog walkers, the British countryside is actually fairly heavily observed by farmers, shooters of all varieties, and most tellingly of all, fox hunts. Now, a fox hunting pack drawing through a wood normally works by doing a number of sweeps through likely areas aiming to cover the entire area, during which time the mounted followers normally tend to gossip amongst themselves and the foot (or car) followers watch out for any activity within the wood.

The general effect on the wildlife within a wood is usually quite dramatic: deer flee in all directions, hares follow old paths, and domestic cats usually pause and look around, then head out as fast as their legs can carry them. North American hunts do commonly encounter big cats, and the reaction they report is that bobcats and cougars almost never hang about but usually run, and end up getting treed. A similar reaction was reported by none other than Jon himself in one of his books, retelling a tale from a school colleague who described seeing a big black cat leaving a covert at speed.

However, big cats are almost never reported by mounted hunts in the UK. Foxhounds will hunt cats readily, and could be expected to do so if they found one, yet this is pretty much unheard of. Similarly big cats should also be pretty effective predators of gamebirds, especially if a cat happened on a large scale pheasant shoot which about this time of year will be taking delivery of thousands of poults for release; thousands of silly, stupid birds which fly poorly and roost on the ground. Predators tend to exploit rich resources to the exclusion of all else, so there should be reports of gamekeepers having this happen to them, and using the usual remedy on the culprits; we should have an abundance of bodies were the animals common.

The second observation is this: in quite large parts of the UK, typically the south-west, the zoonotic disease Bovine Tuberculosis is endemic. The principal wildlife reservoir is badgers, and the principal infected domestic species is cattle, but deer, cats, dogs, people and camelids like llamas can also catch the disease. This is especially noticeable in the Baronsdown deer reserve, where a lot of heavily infected deer are to be found.

Now, to a hunting big cat, a deer which is weakened by disease is a very, very tempting target. Over the last decade we should have seen a population explosion of big cats in the BTB-endemic areas as the food supply increased; we haven't (save for a minor increase in sightings caused mostly by google searching making the news reports easier to locate).

Similarly if these big cats were endemic in the UK before the 1970s, then we should expect that prior to about 1953 the big cats would be eating mostly rabbits, which were super-abundant then. When the myxoma virus was introduced, then about 1954 we should see a spike in big cat sightings as the main food source got killed out and the cats were forced to switch food; this spike again didn't happen.

So, I tend to agree with you: big cats in Britain are very rare, and probably don't prey on particularly big wildlife, either.