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Sunday, February 05, 2012

NEIL ARNOLD: Big Cat Evidence

BIG CAT EVIDENCE - Over the last couple of weeks it's been interesting to note how many newspapers across England - some less reliable than others (if there is such a thing in the world of tabloids!) - have published news of an alleged 'big cat' kill in Gloucestershire. It's always positive news when a 'kill' makes the papers in some sense as it makes the public - and certainly sceptics - aware that there is evidence to suggest that large, exotic cats roam the UK.

However, this sort of evidence is hardly headline news; in fact it's extremely common. Every week evidence comes to light regarding 'big cat' activity in the southeast of England such as kills, scat etc. See images:

1) fox killed by black leopard,

2) fox stripped by female black leopard,

3) deer carcass found in a tree,

4) deer killed by black leopard,

5) leopard scat full of deer fur,
6) sheep kill.

Hardly ground-breaking news. If the evidence proves that such prey have been taken by a large cat, I don't really see this making a great impact, sadly, as previously hair samples, some excellent photos, kills and even felid bodies have turned up, but it generally dies down after a while. Here's hoping that the abundant evidence proves without a shadow of a doubt that leopard, puma and lynx are roaming Britain, but sadly there will always be those who do not believe such reports. Even if a 'big cat' body turns up - which I hope it doesn't to some extent - I'm sure the sceptical view will be that it's a hoax or a zoo escapee.

4 comments:

RR said...

Excellent post Neil - and thanks for sharing some great photos! I always enjoy your writing and insights.

Retrieverman said...

When dogs kill foxes, they might tear them apart, but they won't strip them like this.

Dogs won't eat foxes. My grandfather used to trap foxes for their fur, and the dogs never would touch the carcasses when they were cast aside.

The fox is the best evidence I've seen.

Dan said...

As I see it, a fair amount of the problem with big cat reporting in the UK is down to who is it being done by. Journalists and naturalists are the main reporting agencies, and serious biologists only very rarely get involved (the CFZ and its contacts being a rare exception to this).

When dealing with a rare animal in an environment, the skills of a naturalist only go so far; they can say that it may be in the area, but that is all. A journalist's skills are worse still; they are out to sell newspapers so want sensational or interesting things to report on; Asian black leopards merit only minor interest.

What is needed is more the skills set of an experimental biologist here; such people do not wait for interesting behaviours or animals to happen by, but instead deliberately go out to provoke or engineer these events. Big cat surveys in the USA have employed synthetic catnip oil on what they term "rub strips"; spiky wire contraptions intended to ensnare cat fur when the animal rubs against them.

Catnip is a peculiar substance, which appears to subvert some of the pheromonal communication of cats, and induces drunkenness and rubbing behaviour; rub-strips have been demonstrated to be the easiest way to sample big cat fur, and DNA PCR fingerprinting does the rest.

Neil A said...

I can confirm that catnip does indeed work. The other problem is that alot of people are simply leaving trigger camera's out then going back home and waiting rather than being 'out there'. Evidence is abundant, I have several contacts around the south-east of England who are employing tracking techniques. I am also working with two 'big game' trackers from South Africa used to hunting leopard many years ago. Foxes often turn up stripped, and sheep and deer regularly found in trees, which isd why it's important to let the public know what signs to look for and also eliminate. I find it amazing that one deer kill can make headline news and yet people are finding this sort of stuff, as well as hair and scat all the time.