The risks of there being Big Cats in the UK.

One of the responsibilities of Government is to protect the population. Naturally they don’t want people panicking unnecessarily. Neither do they want to shell out compensation.

It is no surprise then that successive governments have continued to deny that big cats exist. This is despite allegations that killed animals which been officially handed in have then ‘disappeared’, and that road casualties have been cleared away.

Police forces vary in their public front in this matter, some being more enlightened than others.

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What makes up the risk?

  1. The human population of the UK is rising sharply, particularly with more open borders.
  2. Land is being eaten up by “development” which destroys habitat and reduces food supply.
  3. As the population of non-indigenous cats increases it places further pressure on their natural food supply.
  4. The reduced food supply and open range, and the increased urban sprawl make for animals cruising in our built-up areas looking for food.

For these reasons, therefore, the risk to the human population rises sharply. Although, to date, we have been lucky in that nobody has yet been killed, sooner or later these animals will cause a tragedy.

This is not to raise the spectre that the situation is dangerous right now. But it is right that we should understand that there are indeed risks to living alongside these creatures that can prowl unseen in and out of our communities. 

 Foxes have lived in our towns and cities for years. Big cats are now being reported in and around London more regularly.

Can the risk be removed?

To eradicate the big cat population will be massively expensive in time and money, purely because they are so difficult to track down. Nobody can just go out and find a large cat to order.

If the government has difficulty allocating funding for our health services, our education services, our armed services, our pensioners, our young people, our road and transport systems, our wildlife heritage, our farmers, then how the hell are they going to find the finance required to cleanse the country of big cats?

In practice, culling will most probably be attempted when the police judge they have a serious situation, and not before.

I am already confident that measures are in hand within Police forces throughout the UK to shoot if circumstances justify it, and the right opportunity permits them to do so.

According to the Goucestershire Echo, 07 November 2002, “POLICE ARE READY FOR THE BEAST”.

Police have come up with a plan to track down and catch the elusive big cat, which many believe stalks the county.

Mark Robson at the police control room in Cheltenham is one of the county police’s wildlife officers.

He has responsibility for dealing with sightings of the mysterious black cat, and every time someone reports seeing it, he investigates the incident together with an outside inspector. Mr Robson said: “We basically arrange for statements to be taken from people to see if they are credible and to see what they have seen.”

He said if the cat attacked somebody, the action plan would be ready to roll. He said: “Within a very short period of time we would taken steps to call people in.” Although he would not go into details it is understood that wildlife experts would try to capture the beast.

He said: “What we don’t want to do is to be caught out and have the public put at risk.” After investigating “a significant number” of big cat sightings for several years, Mr Robson, 35, believes some kind of animal is at large.

He said: “I’d agree there’s enough evidence to suggest that there is something there. But we’re still waiting for concrete proof.”

Mr Robson said people who saw big cats were often afraid to come forward. He said: “They don’t think that we would take them seriously.”

He is now trying to encourage other police authorities to draw up action plans to deal with big cat sightings in their areas.                  …

Two thirds of all sightings are of black cats, which are believed to be leopards. If anyone spots a big cat in the county they can call the police on 0845 090 1234 and ask to speak to Mr Robson.

Please do not attempt to shoot a big cat yourself.

A wounded animal is extremely dangerous, if not to yourself, then most certainly to others.

Have people in the UK ever been attacked?

  • People have been threatened.
  • Vehicles have been sprung upon.
  • In three cases people have been hurt.

So far I have information regarding sixteen bad situations – whether actual attacks or menacing threats – made towards humans on the UK mainland – one in Wales, two in Scotland, and the rest, obviously, in England.

Normal behaviour is to avoid direct human contact. Their initial reaction has been to run off when surprised. They have an astonishing turn of speed. If their escape route is not blocked, all has been well. But they are, potentially, very dangerous animals; they are fast, powerful and not easily seen.

The more that they live with human populations, the less frightened of people they will become. Inevitably somebody will get very hurt. It is just that at this moment, there have been no fatal incidents.

There have been some close shaves reported though, the most recent in Wales in August 2000, where the young man in Trellech – who had his face scratched recently – simply received a warning from a very frightened (and probably young) black cat whose tail he had grabbed(!) thinking it was his own family’s pet cat’s tail protruding from the bushes..

There is no easy answer. There is always an element of risk whilst these animals co-exist in the same environment as we do.

Personally, it is a risk that I have accepted so far, but I now believe we are gradually moving towards a much more dangerous situation.

Reducing risks to families and ourselves.

There is a real danger of hysteria and so common-sense information is helpful.

The following was sent to me from a correspondent in America, where experts have made the following recommendations about cohabiting with big cats: I have adjusted the text.

 Don’t feed wild animals, particularly species that are possible prey for large cats, where doing so may draw those cats into contact with the human population. 

 Keep pets and any susceptible livestock inside at early morning, late evening, and at night. Big cats are crepuscular, which means they feed at dusk and dawn in particular.

 It is imprudent to let children play alone.

 Keep vegetation under control around housing. Vegetation will give cover to a large cat.

 Have a good light. Keep it on, or with you, if you must go wandering around at night.

 If you see a big cat, please stay calm and back away slowly when safe to do so. Sudden movement, screaming or a raised voice gives out the wrong message. Relaxed movement will reduce the trigger to attack.

 Never fix a threatening animal with a stare. Eye contact may be taken as a threat, which may provoke the cat to self-defence.

 If the cat still threatens, stand tall, open arms and coat wide, make much noise, throw possessions at it if necessary. If they are insured all the better!

 Pick up children and pets – in that order.

 Fight back, but only if attacked. Animals hit it on the nose with a pole, tripod, or other heavy object have been scared off. A child has held off an attack in the UK with a punch to the cat’s nose.

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