|The Puma - Adapted to the British countryside|
So hearing reports of black cats like puma`s is something that does not surprise me in the least.
In parts of England the Australian wallaby has established itself in the wild, and Cumbria would be a natural landscape for large carnivores like big cats.
Most people assume they attack sheep for food, but cats are notoriously shy, and tend to steer well clear of human activity and can eat a range of wild animals to supplement their diet such as wild deer, foxes and rabbits. Killing sheep is normally a last reserve unless they are hungry and their normal prey is unavailable.
In October 2009 a large puma-like creature was reported to be prowling on waste-ground near Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary,although witnessed by a number of people, police were unable to track it.
Staff working at the city’s dental centre were mesmerised by the sight of the animal, which they described as being black and distinctly feline, but as long and as large as an Alsatian dog.
Nothing further was heard of this creature until Wednesday 15th February 2012 when a bus driver spotted what he believes may have been a large black panther in a field a few miles north of Carlisle.
Steve Allison, from Firlands, Stanwix, said: “I was driving towards Rockcliffe, about half a mile away from the village, down a section of road that turns to the right and I suddenly saw this thing in the field right ahead.
“It was lying down, and it certainly wasn’t a small animal. When it heard the bus it stood up, startled, and stared for a moment, and then sprinted off towards the end of the field.
“Absolutely everything about it was feline. Its black tail was curled, and if I’d been next to it would have come up past my knees in height. Its coat was black and shiny. I obviously startled it. Afterwards, you start to question yourself, but I know what I saw.
“At the time, my feeling was more one of fascination, but there was no way I would have got off the bus.”
On Tuesday 21st February 2012, the `News and Star` of Cumbria reported a further sighting by another witness and the newspaper report reads:
Jeni Banks had driven along Eastern Way in Carlisle on her way back home to Wetheral hundreds of times and she had no reason to think this journey would be anything other than normal.
Then, in the gloom, she saw something moving, a creature of some kind, ambling across the road ahead of her.
To the left of the road were houses and beyond the pavement to the right was an area of woodland.
“It wasn’t quite dark, but it was gloomy enough for me to need my sidelights on,” explained Jeni, a 26-year-old businesswoman.
“I remember thinking to myself that it looked like a big black Labrador because of its size but as my car drew level with it I looked again.”
For a few fleeting seconds, Jeni stared in disbelief as the creature stood at the roadside, its head turned back towards her approaching car.
Its eyes gleamed in the headlights, and Jeni took in the creature’s size and shape: its elongated black body, and its long curling tail.
“I saw it as clear as anything,” said Jeni, obviously still fascinated by the memory of the creature, which vanished into the woodland. I was within 20ft of it, and when I saw it I was in shock.
“It was a big cat, right here in Carlisle, beside the road. It was surreal.
“There were no other cars around but I know what I saw. When I got to Tesco I called in for some shopping and just blurted it out to the woman at the checkout, saying that I’d just seen a panther.
“She said: ‘Oh, right’ and must have thought that I was a bit of a lunatic. As soon as I got home to Wetheral, I rang the police and told them what I had seen because the creature was so near to houses.
“They were very nice about it and said they would log it with the other sightings.”
Like many of those who have reported panther or puma sightings in Cumbria, Jeni had never expected to see an animal so exotic on the fringe of a northern English city.
Having spent a week in South Africa’s Kruger game reserve several years ago, she has seen panthers and other big cats – and she is sure that is what she saw that night in April 2010.
It is quite clear that there is big cat activity, and the possibility that there may be breeding groups.
To date none of the reported sightings have led to injury, and like all other creatures that have adapted to the British climate it is hoped that they are left alone.