Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Cannock Chase Panther


(Image: Wikipedia)

Since the 1970's literally hundreds (if not, thousands) of big cat sightings have been reported from within the Chase's mysterious plantation, often by seemingly rational and trustworthy witnesses. In truth, these accounts have received more publicity within the national and international press than any other phenomena reported in the area, so predictably this is a very hot topic that creates a whole load of controversy – something I’m a huge fan of.

In 1976 the Dangerous Animals Act came into force in England, which made it illegal to keep fierce and predatory creatures as pets without a licence. The problem was though, many people already had these animals, and thanks to parliament, they were now breaking the law. Without having much choice in the matter, pet owners far and wide began releasing their ferocious, wild beasts into secluded countryside locations. Unfortunately, many of these animals would have struggled to survive unaided in England, however, is it possible that some species were more suited to our climate than others? Have exotic cats been breeding secretly for the last 40 years? Some journalists and researchers would argue that the evidence suggests they have.

(Image: Wikipedia)

To illustrate the reality of this situation, in 1989 the body of an Asian Jungle Cat was found in the town of Ludlow, Shropshire (around 25 miles outside of Cannock Chase). Some people believe that this jungle cat and others like it could have mated with local domestic felines, creating a race of super-moggies who still roam the peaceful countryside to this very day, although the serious research community are notably divided on the issue. World famous zoologist and cryptozoologist Dr Karl Shuker, who has written many books on the subject of mystery cats in Britain told a popular television reporter that “from the condition of it (the carcase) and the age, it had been in the area for quite some time. Many people had reported seeing an animal like this, but they hadn't been believed until the body was found”. This suggests the cat had more than enough time to breed, but although sightings do continue in the area, no further hard evidence has been uncovered.

For the most part, when people in England use the word “panther”, they are referring to Melanistic Leopards, and in some cases Puma's or Jaguars. However, in other places around the world, the word is used to describe a whole plethora of different big cats. So in reality “panther” is not a very good descriptive term, and many witnesses probably use it incorrectly. However, local people have adopted the word, and so for the purpose of this section, I will continue to use it.

In 2009 the Express and Star newspaper reported that an expert, who had been advising the police about the existence of big cats in England’s woodland's, said that he believed Puma's have been breeding on Cannock Chase since the 1940's, and again dubbed the area a hotspot. The article went on to state that, only a few weeks previously a deer had been found dead, after having been dragged into a ditch, with two puncture holes to the neck – trademark signs of a big cat attack. Also, another man from the village of Norton Canes had stumbled upon, and subsequently taken photographs of, a huge paw-print within a week or two of the incident, which measured at an astonishing 5 by 6 inches. 

I have spent a couple of days searching for the Panther on Cannock Chase myself, but found little more than dubious droppings, which may or may not come from the local deer population. I have however, unearthed some brand new sighting reports that will be included in my forthcoming book about the area. 

The lack of hard evidence for the existence of this woodland beast is somewhat perplexing, but if it is just an urban myth, why do so many people send in sighting reports? They have nothing to gain from such claims as far as I can see, so for the most part, must we conclude they are genuine?

Until next time my friends........


Written by Lee Brickley 2013


5 comments:

  1. It's relatively easy to find evidence of large cats in your area - cat scat is nothing like deer faeces. The climate would not be a problem for a larger cat, lynx were native to these shores don't forget. For the most part sightings DO date back to after the '70s due to the act, as you say, but there are many reports dating back to the 1800s, suggesting menageries and private collections escaped/were freed. The main problem is that hardly anyone is conducting the research full-time and not many people who take to the woods know about native wildlife traces let alone what to look for in regards to exotic species. The most mysterious aspect of the British 'big cat' situation I that it's a mystery at all! People have a tendency to relegate animals to folklore simply because they feel that they should've seen one after a few hours in the woods, and then there are the cranks who believe they are paranormal, which is damaging to the research.

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  2. Cannock Chase is just one of those weird areas. With so many UFO / monster / ghost sightings, it is unsurprising some people also link the cats in. And although, as you say, the vast majority of "big cat" sightings are probably real flesh and blood animals, we must also consider that whatever it is that causes residents to see ghosts and monsters (whether psychological, mineral or otherwise), could also on occasion cause them to see animals :)

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  3. I think it is possible some tipes of big cat could indeed survive in the UK some tipes of Leopard are more adaptable to new climates or enviroments, so could survive our harsh winters, also the North American Cougar or Mountain Lion could also survive in some parts of the uk. However I am Sceptical about the more tropical big cats such as Jaguars, Jungle cats, etc, and others more suited to a warmer tropical jungle/ rainforest tipe enviroment, or those used to dryer desert conditions as they are not used to cooler climates. it is worth noting Grey Wolves used to live in the UK countryside at least 500 years ago or more so larger preditors can indeed survive in the uk if they are adaptable to a cooler enviroment, I think it is possible the dead Indian Jungle cat found in 1989 had either been dumped already dead as a hoax, or had either accidently escaped or had been released on purpose and had died comparitivly soon after being released, as these cats come from very warm tropical jungle areas of India and are not used to our climate. However some species have been known to adapt over time this is sometimes how one species of animal evolves into a new species because they were more adaptable to change in climate and enviroment, although this usualy takes thousands of years for a warm adaptaded animal to evolve into a colder evnviroment adapted animal it is very unlikely that a big cat that has evolved to survive a warm jungle enviroment could evolve into a cold enviroment adapted animal within the 30-40 years big cats have been living in the UK it would more like take several hundred years or more likely thousands for a tropical climate adapted cat to evolve into a cold adapted enviroment cat etc.

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  4. There's no evidence to suggest that such exotic cats have merely been here for the last forty or so years, as there are records dating back at least 200 hundred years of wild cat habitation of the UK. Jungle Cats have been filmed, run over and shot dead in the UK, and certainly kept in outdoor zoo parks suggesting such cats CAN survive n these climates. Jaguars, cheetahs, lions, tigers, are certainly nigh on impossible for contenders of the so-called British 'big cat' identity, but as Graham John Baker states, puma and leopard, as well as the once native lynx could easily survive. As for 'ghostly' animals, well yes there have ben reports, but ghostly creatures do not kill and eat deer, nor do they leave scat, footprints and scratch marks up trees!

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  5. Myself and my 21yr old son spotted what looked like a large cat whilst driving along "Penkridge Bank Rd" a couple of weeks back
    We were on our way back from Stafford and cutting through the Chase of an afternoon.
    A Large feline like animal crossed the road about 300 yards ahead of us.
    It looked about the same height as Labrador, but was much longer in body length.
    It was black or very dark in colour, and it sort of slinked across the rd.
    We both saw it and was both amazed at what it seemed to be.

    .

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