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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

UK Big Cat Mystery...I Really WAS Wasting My Time?


Rival: In 2008 Chris Ede spotted this big black cat outside her holiday home and believes it may have been the legendary Beast of Bodmin
Rival: In 2008 Chris Ede spotted this big black cat outside her holiday home and believes it may have been the legendary Beast of Bodmin
 I'm guessing there was nothing better to do on the journalism front. David Clarke "found" the documents.  And what did he learn?  What everyone else knew at the time.

The Government 'investigation' had farmers and others up in arms.  For instance:

 It refused to accept evidence from witnesses -two farmers offered a large number of plaster casts of tracks that were identified as "leopard"  by a zoologist who had studied leopards in Africa -"it does not constitute evidence".  

Recordings of vocalisations that were quite clearly leopard were refused submission "it does not constitute evidence".

The 'experts' would not visit the site of fresh livestock kills where tracks were also found -even an RSPCA inspector and a zoologist from Bristol could not deny what they found and both had been "died in the wool sceptics"

Basically, it was a "paper" exercise.  Like the National Farmers Union UK police forces and many other bodies, the Ministry knew full well that there were non native cats in the UK countryside.  I was once of a visit to an old office of the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries & Food and their 'expert' showed me good, clear photographs of leopard and puma tracks plus plaster casts -"this one is a lynx" I was told as he held the cast up.  Saving embarrassment, let's just say that during our talk the 'expert' realised I was not who he thought I was and ushered me out.

The Department of Environment, Farming & Rural Affairs took over.  I spoke with another 'expert' by phone and I mentioned tracks.  "That isn't evidence" he told me "If it was I have two drawers-full of plaster casts of tracks that I'm told are leopard and puma.  There's no real evidence."


I know what you are thinking.  Two drawers full of plaster casts of leopard and puma tracks -why is that not evidence?  Why would he tell me that?  

Firstly, I need to explain about the 'experts' that these departments put forward.  I was talking to the "main expert" who was in Bristol and it was quite clear he had no idea what I was talking about when referring to various tracks, scat and "morphology".  Apparently, the 'expert' on big cat cases in the UK had drawn the short straw.  He was a regular civil servant and one day he boss said "We need someone to deal with big cat phone calls -I've put you on the roster!"

He and his predecessors/successors had no real training in the subject but they all pointed out that they could call on "experts" if they needed advice.  Not independent experts but people chosen from a selected list. At one point the Bristol man started talking about a particular case.  Turns out "some farmer" had claimed their horse was attacked by a leopard in Wales. Now, at the time I was officially listed on DEFRAs "Partners Against Wildlife Crimes" as "approved" so I got more detail.  Odd. It was very similar to an ongoing case I was involved in.  Could I get the experts phone number? "Well, I shouldn't but it ought to be okay."  He then gave me my telephone number!

He was, in fact, referring to an attack by a puma on an Argentinean polo pony that belonged to a professor in South Wales.  Photographs taken at the time were so clear that when Bristol Zoo saw them they put me in touch. The dentition and measurements confirmed that it was a puma attack -deep bites along the back of the neck and claw marks where the cat had dug in. Zoologists who saw the photographs told me that the pony was lucky to have escaped.  "You see this sort of thing quite a bit in South America.  What part was this in -Argentina?" And when I told them where they were aghast.  Except for one zoologist who had confirmed that beyond a doubt "this was a puma attack" who told me: "You do not get pumas in Wales." He seriously thought I was joking but when he found I was not it was suddenly "Dogs?" and then the famous words that I really laughed out loud to: "Very well may have been a badger attack"!! 

Remember that definition of "Expert" -"X" =The Unknown and "Spurt" is a drip under pressure?

And I have several copies of a typed up witness statement -all signed and dated- telling how he had helped a DEFRA veterinarian with a caged leopard on his farm.  The man was shocked and mortified when the vet injected the animal and killed it -he assumed that it was being tranquilised. The local police force also has a copy of this report.

"A corpse is what we want as proof" they say.  Interestingly, when it was realised that I would not tow the DEFRA line (which it says you must on the contract you sign) every obstacle was put in my way. I completed the form TEN TIMES and each time there was the "We need more detail here" or some other excuse.  So I continued "off the books" and believe me that makes you the enemy! 

But from 1977 up to a few years ago I was consulted by police forces. I saw the evidence.  I had police turn up after driving a hundred or so miles with casts and photos. 

Here's a fun fact for you.  Remember in the 1980s when the Royal Marines were sent on Bodmin to "track down and shoot" a big cat if it was there? 

Over the years I've spoken to an officer and men involved -all now in different walks of life.  They all told me that they were not there to shoot "the Beast" if they saw it. As one pointed out: "The rifles we had -if we fired- the bullet might miss or go through an animal and with cottages dotted around as well as livestock and farmers out looking for the Beast....I'll leave the thought of a high powered bullet whizzing through the dark to your imagination!"

And, yes, some using night vision rifle-sights did see a large, unidentified cat. Nothing close-to, though.

In my logs -copies held in storage at a couple locations- I have reports from two of these former Royal Marines.  Both in security at the time and in different parts of the country.  One ran a security dog firm and one night his dogs "treed" something.  He called them back and in powerful searchlight saw a puma jump down from the tree and run off.  The other ex-Marine had a similar night sighting. "I never saw a bloody thing on Bodmin myself and now, years later in another part of the country I see a big cat!"   

Because of the strict witness protection criteria I employ I could tell neither of the other man's sighting.

There is good footage of these cats.  There is very good footage of the smaller jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi) in the UK. Several minutes of it in fact.

The idea that a photograph of a domestic black cat by a railway line fooled "everyone" is ludicrous.  When the photo was released it was checked and declared "domestic cat".

Personally, I don't care if people do accept such awful, unscientific conclusions as fact.  There are millions of wild rabbit, hundreds of thousands of deer of all species, wild game birds -plenty of prey, cover and everything else a large cat requires. "It's a joke" is better than "It's a fact" because then we will see every ass who thinks he/she is a big hunter going out at night trying to "bag one"and the brief fame and money it would bring.
    Beast of Bodmin mystery finally solved: It’s a cat.Beast of Bodmin Moor mystery finally solved?

A mysterious and bloodthirsty creature that terrified Cornwall families for 30 years has finally been identified.

It’s a cat.

The ‘creature’, dubbed the Beast of Bodmin Moor, was thought to be rampaging through Cornwall, slaying and mutilating livestock and striking fear into the hearts of the locals.
It was speculated to be a panther or some large wild animal, but the truth, as it turns out, is far simpler.

A six-month-long Government investigation in 1995 into the ‘beast’ found there was no ‘verifiable evidence’ of exotic cats loose in the UK, reports the Daily Mail, with further research – at an equivalent £84,000 cost – showing the animal to be slightly-larger-than-average cat.

Sheffield Hallam University journalism professor David Clarke found the documents at the Public Record Office.

The papers said that although the ‘beast’ was ruled to be a 12in tall cat, researchers could not prove that big, wild cats were ‘not present’.

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