Thursday, October 13, 2016

Killers Stalk British Countryside

What many citizens have suspected for some time: leopards and pumas are breeding in rural Britain.
New data shows more than one big cat sighting is being reported to UK police every week! There've been 455 sightings of big cats between 2010-2015. Accounts of a black panther stalking Norfolk and Suffolk have featured regularly in news reports.
Since the UK's Dangerous Wild Animals Act came into law in 1977, people have not been allowed to keep big cats as pets. Many big cat sightings are of animals that were kept as pets and released, or perhaps ones that escaped from zoos or were purposely released into the wild.
But big cats must be breeding, as they don't live 40 years in the wild: puma last 8-13yrs and leopards 12-17yrs. There've also been occasional sightings of females with cubs.
There're an estimated 2,000 sightings each year, the vast majority of which are not reported to UK authorities. Some have been dismissed as hoaxes, however a DNA test on hairs found in Lincolnshire found they did come from the leopard family.
Leopards and pumas in the wild live in countryside quite similar to the UK: there're pumas in North America and leopards as far north as Siberia.
So, given that the existence of these big cats seems no longer in dispute, I wonder what the UK approach will be, when one of them is cornered? Police supposedly liaise with the RSPCA...but these particular cats are somewhat more dangerous than your average stray moggie!
One hopes police sharpshooters won't kill them on sight...but what will the fate of these once-legendary rural stalkers be?

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