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Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Friday, 28 January 2011
Big cat spotted in Dursley 'could be a leopard'
Black leopard
Could a black leopard have been spotted in Dursley, Gloucestershire?

A big cat expert has said a recent spate of sightings could be proof that a large feline predator is roaming the Gloucestershire countryside.

Rick Minter, who hunts and records big cats, said the description of the latest sighting "fits the description of a black leopard".

The creature has been seen a number of times within the last few weeks near Dursley.

It has been described as being 'as large as a big German Shepherd dog'.

Local woman Debbie contacted BBC Gloucestershire after she and her sisters had seen the animal on three separate occasions in the past few weeks.

It would be very rare and out of character for a big cat to take a donkey or pony.
Rick Minter

"It was probably about the size of a big German Shepherd dog and very long, and completely black with a huge tail about the same size as its body, and it had a huge head with yellowy eyes," she said.

"It's not afraid of humans - it was just circling my sister's car. When she tried to get out of the car it came back and circled the car again. She froze with fear. She didn't know what to do."

'Worried about safety'

Debbie said she was worried that the cat might attack her livestock

"We've got a pony and three donkeys that live outside at night and two dogs and we're worried about their safety," she said.

But big cat expert Rick Minter, who is a member of Big Cats in Britain, said he doubted that the creature would attack:

"Normally they would not take stock like donkeys and ponies," he said. "They normally go for their normal prey of deer, rabbits, pheasants, pigeons and occasionally they take a sheep.

"I can understand the concern but it would be very rare and out of character for a big cat to take a donkey or pony."

Mr Minter, who has been trying to prove the existence of big cats in the UK for several years, said this latest sighting fitted the description of a black leopard, although it could be a different species of big cat.

"I gather this one had eyes that were slitted rather than round which suggest that it's [of the genus] felis rather than panthera.

"This is a very interesting one. Another option is a black jaguar or a black puma."

Fellow big cat expert Frank Tunbridge has set-up 'trip cameras' in the area to try and capture a photo of the animal.

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