The BBC is joining the hunt to verify reported sightings of big cats across the British countryside. The corporation is sending cameras in the hope of substantiating the theory that a population of large carnivorous cats – such as jaguars, leopards or pumas. BBC Autumnwatch host Iolo Williams told the Daily Star hi-tech gadgets had been deployed after a spate of apparent sightings in west Wales, close to where he hosted this week’s show on the Teifi Marshes, Pembrokeshire. Across the UK there are more than 1,500 reports annually of sightings large unexplained predators marauding, according to group Big Cats in Britain.
Iolo said: “Just because I’ve never actually clapped eyes on one living in the wild doesn’t mean to say that they are definitely not around.
“Big cats are by nature incredibly elusive and will go out of their way to remain concealed.
“Having said that, over the years I must have tramped tens of thousands of miles across all parts of Wales and I’ve never come across evidence these things are out there.
“If there was a population of big cats living in our countryside you’d have thought we’d find far more sheep carcasses, and obvious prey such as pheasants would be massacred in their hundreds.”
Iolo said cameras in west Wales had been looking for kingfisher, mullet and salmon as well as badgers, deer and otters.
He said: “The Teifi Marshes are one of my favourite places. The variety of habitat here is quite simply stunning.”
Notable locations big cats have been reported include Bodmin Moor, in Cornwall, where legend has it a big panther-like cat has been spotted numerous times and scavenges livestock during the night.
In the Peak District a rail worker claimed he had to hike a mile to safety to avoid the dangerous beast.
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Billy Brown, 37, told the Daily Star of the horrors of finding the big cat in the car park near to the station, and how he managed to avoid a grisly encounter.
Brown said: “It was about the size of a medium Rottweiler dog. I had no phone signal and nowhere to run. As a professional I had to carry on my inspection.
“We must have been face to face for a good four or five minutes.”
Some of the earliest ever sightings of ‘big cats’ in Britain were reported around the 1700s when English journalist William Corbett wrote of seeing a cat “as big as a middle-sized spaniel dog” climb into a tree near Waverley Abbey, near Farnham, Surrey. On January 14, 1927, the Daily Express reported sightings a ‘lynx’ being seen.
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