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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 17:57 GMT
Study backs big cat rise in Wales
'Big cat' footprint. Picture; Aled Jones

A radio producer said his own research into sightings of big cats in the Welsh countryside appears to be backed up by findings from the British Big Cat Society (BBCS).

Wales is fourth on the list of big-cat hot-spots in the society's UK survey.

BBC programme maker Aled Jones has collated more than 100 sightings in north and mid Wales in 18 months.

"I've spoken to people who have no knowledge of each other and been able to match up sightings," he said.

Long tail

The BBCS study finds sightings increasing across the UK. Almost 60% of sightings were of black cats, and 32% sandy-coloured or brown, which the BBCS believes are pumas.

Mr Jones is concentrating his research in mid and north Wales because other research is being carried out in south Wales.

Since the first phone call 18 months ago to BBC Radio Cymru's nature programme Galwad Cynnar, Mr Jones said he had been contacted by more people who have seen big cats, sometimes more than once.

I've seen it as close as 100 yards away
Ann Roberts, horse breeder

As part of his research Mr Jones has also seen video footage of "a large black animal" moving through dense undergrowth, and photographed large feline-like footprints near sightings.

"There is a remarkable similarity in most of the reported sightings, size, posture, the only variable is the colour," said Mr Jones.

"I've heard of sightings from all sorts of places, even a seaside town, but the majority of sightings are in mountainous, wooded, remote areas," he added.

In Wales, big cat sightings are investigated by the Welsh Assembly Government, in the form of the Wildlife Management Unit based at Aberystwyth.

A possible "big cat" on a film
More and more possible sightings are being caught on camera

Site visits are carried out when evidence is present and if an unknown predator has killed an animal, the carcass may be taken for post mortem examination.

Samples of hair and droppings can also be sent for DNA analysis, while unusual footprints are also inspected.

An assembly government spokeswoman said: "It is also important to stress that our responsibility in respect of big cats is in relation to damage or potential damage to livestock.

"Any threat to human life is the responsibility of the Home Office and such concerns should be referred to the police".

Ann Roberts, 43, believes she has lost two foals to a big cat which she and many of her neighbours have seen at Red Wharf Bay on Anglesey.

"When the foals first disappeared I thought maybe a big cat had taken them, but then I saw the cat for myself as I was leading a couple of horses down the lane with my mother," she said.

That first sighting was in 2004, but Mrs Roberts' husband Mike saw the animal three days ago.

Mrs Roberts said there was a lot of leg-pulling when someone said they had seen the cat, but now there was a 'club' of locals who had seen the creature.

"I've seen it as close as 100 yards away, it's taller than a labrador, longer with a very long tail. I'd love an expert to come here and find exactly what it is," she said.




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