Now and again, I’m asked if the U.K. government has ever undertaken any investigations into the so-called “Alien Big Cats.” Well, the answer is “Yes, they have.” For the most part, however, the government has taken a skeptical approach to the phenomenon of large cats roaming the landscape. On occasion the British Army has taken part in investigations of the ABCs. As have varied, regional police forces. The lack of much in the way of hard evidence (in terms of living or dead animals found), however, has still led the authorities to take the subject seriously, but also skeptical of an ABC presence in the U.K. – except, that is, for the occasional exotic pet that has escaped into the wilds. Or, a pet that has been deliberately released into the countryside when it has got too big and powerful to control.
The U.K.’s Freedom of Information Act has proved useful when it comes to the matter of securing official files on the ABCs. From 1995 to 2005, for example, Hampshire, U.K.’s police responded to a few cases involving Alien Big Cats. They officially state: “Hampshire’s Constabulary’s Air Support Unit has been deployed to assist with the following reports: January 1995 – Black Panther like animal seen in Eastleigh. Two likely heat sources found by the aircraft, but nothing found by ground troops. March 1995 – Black Puma like animal seen in Winchester. One heat source found that could not be classified by the aircraft crew, kept running off from searching officers, search eventually abandoned.” Moving on to 1991: Norfolk, England police found the remains of a dead lynx at Great Witchingham.
And, then, there’s an intriguing report titled “The Evidence for the Presence of Large Exotic Cats in the Bodmin Area and Their Possible Impact on Livestock.” It was prepared for the government’s Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food.” Bodmin, for those who may not know, is dominated by the huge Bodmin Moor and is located in the county of Cornwall. The results of the investigation – which covered January 12, 1995 to July 1, 1995 – went as follows: “It was accepted at the start of this investigation that it would never be possible to prove that such an animal, or animals, did not exist, but it was believed that if they did, hard evidence would be forthcoming.” Furthermore, the final words were: “There is no significant threat to livestock from a ‘big cat’ on Bodmin Moor.”
Documentation that was generated as a result of a February 2, 1998 debate on the controversy in the Government’s House of Commons began with a statement from Mr. Keith Simpson, the Member of Parliament for mid-Norfolk: “Over the past twenty years, there has been a steady increase in the number of sightings of big cats in many parts of the United Kingdom. These are often described as pumas, leopards or panthers. A survey carried out in 1996 claimed sightings of big cats in 34 English counties.”
Many of the sightings, said Simpson, had been reported in his constituency by people out walking their pet-dogs or driving down old country roads, very often at dawn or dusk. Frequently the description given fitted perfectly that of a puma or a leopard. Simpson also added that in a number of incidents it had been claimed that ewes, lambs, and even horses had been attacked – and in some cases killed – by the marauding beasts. Simpson elaborated yet further: “A number of distinguished wildlife experts have suggested that some pumas or leopards could have been released into the countryside when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 made it illegal to own such animals without a license. They would have been able to roam over a wide area of countryside, live off wild or domestic animals and possibly breed. So what is to be done?”
That was a good question. The February 1998 debate concluded as most cryptozoologists expected it would end. The government said: “It is impossible to say categorically that no big cats are living wild in Britain, so it is only right and proper that the Ministry should continue to investigate serious claims of their existence – but only when there is a threat to livestock and when there is clear evidence that can be validated. I am afraid that, until we obtain stronger evidence, the reports of big cats are still in the category of mythical creatures.”