There have been so many big cat sightings in Leicestershire and Rutland – the latest on January 1 – that some experts are convinced there are breeding populations.‘Experts’? Do you mean vets, biologist, zoo personnel?
For big cat hunter Nigel Spencer, the interest in the big cats that seem to be living and breeding in parts of Leicestershire has become a passion.Ah. Right. No, clearly you mean Internet obsessives.
Nigel has taken over the reins of Rutland and Leicestershire Pantherwatch, an organisation set up by his father, David.
It seems to be the modern definition of 'expert', which believe me, I'm challenging wherever it appears:
The 49-year-old, from Oakham, said: "Big cats are breeding in the UK, without a shadow of a doubt. "You’ll have some proof, then?
"But actually filming them in the wild and proving there are breeding populations out there – rather than just the occasional escaped animal – is very difficult."Newsflash, Nigel; most of the cougar’s range in North America is not that much different from England, with the possible exception of our moors. Surprisingly enough, it even contains 'undergrowth'!
He said the stealthy movements of the animals, combined with the areas they live in, make them hard to find.
"In Africa, you just set up a camera by a water hole and all the animals from two miles around will come by, and in the Americas, where pumas come from, they can be seen in the open country.
"Here, they can easily dart into the undergrowth and quickly disappear. "
And seeing a cougar in anything like open country (save when they encroach on human areas) is about as ‘easy’ as seeing a leopard in daylight in Africa.
Nigel said the main questions of doubters could be answered easily.Oh, really?
"It's been too long for these new sightings to be animals released in the 70s, so that suggests they're breeding in the wild or being bred for the black market and being released."/facepalm
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it did not collect reports on big cats and had never found conclusive evidence of big cats living in the wild.For once, I think I have a lot more faith in the official government line than in any other explanation….