Page last updated at 07:23 GMT, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Big cats sightings are 'reliable'

Big cat, library image
The animals have been spotted by rangers in the area

Big cats have been caught on camera in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire twice in the past seven years, the Forestry Commission has confirmed.

The animals were spotted by rangers who were filming a deer survey.

Under a Freedom of Information Act request the government agency confirmed the sightings are "reliable".

Commission spokesman Stuart Burgess said the sightings had been confirmed by "very experienced" rangers unlikely to mistake deer for big cats.

'Experienced guys'

"Both were observed in low light, using heat-activated vision equipment while they were carrying out a deer census," he said.

"The colour of the animals couldn't be made out, but these are very experienced guys and they know what is and what isn't a deer.

"One definitely believed that what he saw was some sort of large cat."

The first sighting was at the outskirts of Churchill enclosure, east of Parkend, in February 2002. The second was on the southern slopes of Staple Edge in March 2005.

A survey by the British Big Cats Society showed more than 2,000 suspected big cat sightings were reported nationwide between 2004 and 2005.



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