Surrey Puma panic: Fears for big cat on loose after deer found 'stripped to bone'

John Moorwood, 47, from Woking, stumbled on the gruesome sight while walking with his 12-year-old son Fred in The Hurtwood, near Peaslake on Sunday – and was immediately convinced it was something out of the ordinary. Pictures taken at the scene show little more than a rib cage and some legs which have been ripped from the carcass. Mr Moorwood said: “We heard the unbelievably intense sound of flies buzzing and saw something bright red in the middle of the track.

“A dead animal isn’t unusual on a countryside walk but as I got closer, I realised it was quite a big carcass, that of a deer.

“I was surprised by the apparent fresh nature of it and the way it had been stripped right down to the bone.

“There was no rotten smell, which also told me it was fresh.

He told Surrey Live: “Any last remaining bits of meat on the rib cage were still fresh and red, like you might see in a butcher’s.

“There was no substantial tissue left and the torso was completely stripped.

“It wasn’t a case of finding a pile of weathered bones, which can result from anything, including death by natural causes, it was the fact this was so fresh.

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The Surrey Puma is perhaps the most famous of the UK’s phantom cat legends, along with the Beast of Bodmin in Cornwall.

Reports date back to the 18th century – Matthew Alexander’s book, Tales of Old Surrey, cites a report by farmer William Cobbett about “a big grey cat, as big as a middle-sized spaniel dog” near Waverley Abbey.

Numerous sightings were reported in the latter half of the 20th century, and tellingly, hair samples taken at Peaslake were identified at belonging to a puma in 1984.

Last year, Cass Elbourne came across a devoured sheep carcass in Redhill which bore a striking resemblance to the one found by Mr Moorwood.

She also claimed to have seen a cat-like creature in the same field two days earlier.

Speaking after fresh reports in Somerset, Danny Bamping, a member of the British Big Cats Society, encouraged people to report them to his website.

He told Somerset Live: “Whether they have seen one this week or three or four years ago, report it.

“We had a call from 1998 about a sighting and they recently reported it.

“Even if the sighting was a long time ago, another sighting to be added to the database helps us and to understand how many big cats could be out there.”