A recent uptick in “black puma” sightings in recent months has unnerved residents in the United Kingdom with one big cat expert saying that as many 1,000 of the wild felines could be living in forests throughout the country.
Three large cat sightings have been reported in the U.K. this month alone, The Sun reported. While there are 2,000 sightings in the country each year, many believe the increase in sightings in recent months suggests the big cats could be growing bolder as they leave the woods searching for food.
“It’s a crucial issue,” wildcat expert Rick Minter, who has studied the big cats in the area for 20 years, told The Sun. “How do we come to terms with living alongside big cats in Britain?”
Luke Hickman, 30, recently captured one of the large cats on his doorbell camera outside his Newton, Cheshire home, where the cat could be seen moving around behind his car before leaving the area.
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Two days earlier, Julie Murphy spotted a cat of a similar description that she said “charged” at her vehicle about 10 minutes away from Hickman’s home.
Minter says the big cats “very occasionally venture into urban areas at quiet times” which is “probably due to a big cat having a nearby territory and occasionally diverting to the urban edges.”
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Minter stressed that despite the rise in sightings, people should not fear the “shy and wary animals” and said the cats are not “large predators on the loose” looking to attack people.
“They are far more scared of us and most often they are just trying to move humans away from their territory.
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It is believed that 1,000 of the big cats could be living in the woods in United Kingdom.
Minter, who serves an environmental consultant in the new documentary “Britain’s Big Cat Mystery” says that DNA analysis and photographic evidence shows big cats like black leopards, pumas and lynxes are active in the woods of the United Kingdom.
The Sun reported that “black panthers” have been spotted all across the United Kingdom in Wales, Scotland, and England including a black puma that was spotted in a house garden in Abersoch, Wales which led to the police being called due to the large amount of tourists in the area.
Exotic animals have been imported into the island kingdom since the days of the British Empire, The Sun reported, and became popular in the 1960s. Many big cats were released into the wild when the government passed a law in 1976 that required large pets to be registered and provided with suitable living conditions.
Many cats were turned over to zoos, but some were put down if the zoos did not have room for the animals, which further encouraged residents to release them into the wild, according to The Sun.