A GRUESOME find by a landowner may have been the work of a big cat.
Big cat investigator Frank Tunbridge who has been on the trail of elusive beasts in Wales, Scotland and England for 40 years, says there is evidence of pumas and lynxes at large in North and Mid Wales.
Recently, he said images of sheep kills and claw marks on trees were strong evidence of at least one big cat living in Snowdonia.
But the latest evidence is more mysterious as it shows unusual behaviour – even if a big cat is responsible.
Frank says he was contacted by someone with photographs of a dead sheep taken near Synod Inn not far from Llandysul in Ceredigion on January 31.
The first image he was sent shows a sheep that has been ripped apart, similar to those taken in Snowdonia.
But, things became stranger when Frank was sent a second image taken about 24 hours later. In that photograph all that remained was the fleece of the sheep.
Frank, of Gloucester, said: “The landowner went up to check and found the sheep dead, it has been killed, eaten out, the fleece sheared back, and all the internal organs gone. When they went back there the next day all that was left was the fleece. Normally, the head, legs and some of the ribcage will be left, the cat will just eat the best bits. But everything has gone. It’s very unusual behaviour.
“If it was sheep rustlers, they wouldn’t have done that, they would have taken the whole sheep. And it’s unusual even by the normal methods of pumas or lynx. Dogs aren’t involved, you will usually see fleece all around and they don’t usually consume it. It’s too clinical for a dog kill.
Frank added that the gruesome find follows two sightings of large black cats in the area.
“There have been two sightings of a big cat there last year.
“Someone contact me and said he had seen one about three miles from Synod Inn during the first lockdown in April. He saw one crossing the road on the brow of the hill. He said he could definitely see what it was – it was jet black with a shiny coat and a very long tail. It walked casually across the road, then up the bank and it was gone.
“Later, in August that year, two of his friends were out with their dogs in a small wooded area. The dogs started going crazy. They looked up and saw a large black cat at the top of the bank.
“It most probably a different cat to the one in North Wales, they do travel quite a distance but most have a territory of about 30 miles.”
The latest photos do seem different from the ones taken in North Wales at the end of last year.
There, the sheep’s necks were broken and their flesh was stripped to the bone.
The farmer, who estimates he has lost £700 worth of his Welsh Black stock, said: “It’s so clinical, the way they have been killed. There’s no ripping, it’s just one clinical bite and they’re dead.
“The sheep in the photo is a full-sized Welsh Black ewe, she’d be about 35-40 kilos. Foxes or badgers wouldn’t get anywhere near them, they’re too quick.”
“And if you follow the neckline in looks like the neck has been broken, which is a typical cat kill. And with the land up here, you could trip over a cat and not see it.
“I’ve seen sheep killed by dogs, badgers, foxes, other sheep, and this is something different. This isn’t a dog kill, a dog will rip the wool out and you’ll see it all over the field. When you take away the logical, you’re left with the illogical.”
Frank said that despite the evidence of these large predators being in Wales, there is not yet enough to convince the wider public.
He added: “To show that big cats are living and breeding in the UK, we need to show the three Cs. That is a captive one in a trap, that is physical evidence. The second, also physical evidence is a corpse – it one is hit on a road or a farmer shoots one, which is highly unlikely as they are very stealthy, silent, and avoid humans. The last one is close, scaled footage. Close up moving footage of a cat 20 or 30 feet away with a reference point.”
As with all sightings, people always pose the question why, in an age of smartphones, has nobody taken a clear, conclusive picture.
Frank added: “That’s the question I’m always presented with. I’ll answer that. It’s shock and awe. You don’t expect to see a puma or black panther outside of a zoo or wildlife park. Fear sets in and you don’t want to take your eyes off it. It’s a predator that could cause you serious of damage. The last thing you want to do is raise up our phone and take a photo of it. People I’ve spoken to describe being frozen to the spot.”
There have been a number of sightings of big cats in North Wales and Cheshire in recent months.
A group has been set up to investigate and document the encounters.
Puma Watch North Wales has reported sightings in Connah’s Quay, Corwen, Llangollen, Mold, Pontybodkin, Pentre Halkyn, Rhuallt, Mostyn, Abergele, Snowdonia, Chester, and Ellesmere Port.
— to www.leaderlive.co.uk