When I started advising the police in 1977 I expected to hear the odd story but by 2009 -no arguments.
But here is the thing. I spoke to someone in a little English village.
"Big expert" explained not to panic if one was seen locally.
I then get told "Oh kids were told if one moves through the area keep away from the woods and high grass and crops" and what to do if face to face with a puma.
"You people have certainly done your research" I said.
"Oh, not us. Its what my mother told us because her mother told her and the brothers what to do".
Me. "I'm sorry?"
It turns out her mother -IN THE 1950s- was told the care to take "if the cat comes through" So I ask if her mother was a naturalist or-?
"No. No. Housewife and did garden work (means she planted and grew the fruit and veg for the family as well as the other stuff) but when the cats used to pass through and kill the odd deer or rabbits she was told by her father what to do. The whole village was the same."
Now, hang on. Her mother was a younger in the 1930s but someone back there was familiar enough with pumas to know their traits?
"Its nothing new, dear" she told me.
And the same story from other villages in England and Wales. When I eventually joined up with the University of Wales Carmarthen the professor there (whose pony had been attacked by a puma and various foals killed not to mention sheep -which is when villagers told her and her husband about "the cats") and her assistant found the same thing.
We could trace things back to the 17th and 18th centuries and yet, in all of that time -over 4 centuries- not one person has been attacked or killed by a wild living puma. Plenty of encounters up close but njo panic and run. There are millions of rabbits and millions of deer in the UK, water fowl -a whole pantry. There are even estates where game keepers (game keepers!!!!) protect the cats because they keep down "vermin".
None of this eventually surprised me, and when a Senior Lecturer in Zoology with an international reputation who has dealt with puma work in Canada told me he saw a black puma within 70 feet of him in good lighting and "with every diagnostic feature of a puma"....I never blinked.
Despite all the morons out there it is good to know that "Little England" (in the countryside at least) is not in panic. It treats wildlife as wildlife and "if you don't bother them they won't bother you!"
Fair enough. From December 2015: please note that after I posted the DEFRA letter there was an attempt at some VERY heavy official "leaning" on me. I offered to post other more revealing documents -silence since then.
Big Cats In The UK?
I've mentioned UK large cat sightings so time for a little bit of truth -which DEFRA really does not like. This is 10 years old now and was sent to me by a reporter, Jennie Dennett who wanted to find out more about the large cat sightings going on in Cumbria. I explained the situation so she went for a Freedom of Information request.
This was the response:
The Westmoreland Gazette
25 Market Street,
Our ref EWD 487 Delay
Date 20th May 2005