Saturday, 31 January 2015

An older report of two 'big black cats' in Sussex.

"Thanks to Bob Skinner for this:

"About thirty years ago I decided to go down to a private estate on the Ashdown Forest that I had permission to fish & shoot. It was deep winter and snow lay everywhere and the lakes were frozen over completely but I parked at the top of the drive and made my way down to see if I could bag something for the pot. It was a really still day and the snow clung to all the twigs and branches making everything look amazing and the silence was almost stifling, with everything muffled by the deep snow which continued to fall heavily. Mooching around on the ice of the bottom lake and just enjoying being able to look at the forest from a completely different perspective, my ears detected a sound and I looked up the track to see a small herd of roe deer moving quickly through the trees heading towards the path which they crossed without pausing. Realising that something had obviously spooked them, and that no-one else should have been there I looked back towards where that had come through the trees assuming that I would be able to spot whoever was around. What I saw next will stay with me forever as I spotted two large black cats bounding through the snow towards the route the deer had taken. On reaching the path I had a good view of them as they paused before loping across the path and back into the woods where the deer had disappeared.

I got off the ice and made my way up the path to where I had seen them cross and, sure enough, there were large cat spoors amongst the deer slots in the snow at the edge of the path but as I stood there the falling snow was rapidly covering all evidence up. The light was fading rapidly as I made my way back to the car but I vividly remember my laboured breathing condensing in front of me and thinking that I must be getting unfit. It was only when I was sitting back in my vehicle I realised that it wasn't the slope that had made my heart pound but it was what I had just witnessed. Me spooked by something in the English countryside, I'd never, ever thought that would happen!

As a postscript, I continued to visit this private estate for several years and spent many happy days and nights out there alone and whilst I regularly saw loads of deer I never again saw a shred of evidence that big cats were, or had ever been, at large there."

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Seaford 'panther' sighting...

A black leopard sighting has been reported to me this evening (20/1/2015) from near Seaford, in Sussex. A motorist was driving home from Seaford towards Cuckmere River when according to the witness, "a very big black cat casually stepped out of the bushes along the opposing side of the road and walked out right in front of me - it must have been 20ft away I could and still can't quite believe it! As I got to maybe 18-15 ft away it upped its pace and jumped up the bank to left of the road and disappeared across the pathway."

Over the past five or so years there has been a rise in sightings from the Seaford area; although there have been numerous sightings reported from the area over the last fifty or so years. Statistics based on our files suggest a small population of melanistic leopards which have used the railway lines, rivers and notably Seaford Golf Course for navigation. With Friston Forest close by there is plenty of foliage for a large cat or two to disappear into and with Castle Hill Nature Reserve and the forest flanking the area of sightings; it's no real shock to find such a concentrated area of reports. we'd also be interested to find out whether Drusillas Zoo have ever had anyone report a large cat in the vicinity.
Large cats are often reported around local zoo parks, attracted by smells and possibly cats housed at the parks although as  far as we're aware Drusillas only keeps servals. Even so, one huge patch of woodland and forest provides a perfect green belt for an elusive cat if it wanted to makes it way through to Ditchcling, Portslade and Hove golf course where a few years ago now a professional golfer reported to us that he'd seen a large cat one afternoon whilst he was practising. If one follows the greenbelt - taking in Steyning, Patching, Arundel, Midhurst and cat on the hunt could easily end up in Hampshire within a few weeks. The term 'looking for a needle in a haystack' certainly applies here...