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Surrey puma sightings: Timeline

Puma
Is there a puma family breeding in the Surrey hills?

1800s

1825

27 October. William Cobbett, the famous Farnham farmer, writer, political commentator, sees a big grey cat, the size of a medium-sized spaniel, whilst visiting Waverley Abbey.

1900 - 1959

1938

19 March. The Field magazine publishes a letter from Irene Roberts in Lightwater. She says in July, 1937, she was kept awake by strange noises that weren't made by any animal she recognises. She says it wasn't a fox.

1955

A lady walking her dog in Abinger Hammer, finds a mutilated dead calf. She claims she was shocked to see a puma-like animal slinking away from the scene.

1959

Police receive reports of a big cat around the Surrey/ Hants border. In August, one man, Mr A Burningham, describes "an enormous great cat" crossing a country lane, some 40 yards ahead of him, near Preston Candover. He says it is the "size of a Labrador dog", but moved in a more feline way. It has a rough coat and long tail.
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A cabbie reports seeing a "lion" which jumps over a hedge into Twesledown Racecourse, Church Crookham.

1960s

1961

Golfers having a round of golf at Croham Hurst Golf Club, near East Croydon, spot a large black creature. One golfer goes to get a better look and reports that it is a bear, about 3 feet tall. It disappears into the woods as they watch it.

1962

16 July. 7.45am. Water board worker Ernest Jellett, reports seeing a large cat chasing a rabbit, near Heathy Park Reservoir on the North Downs. A police search reveals a patch of flattened grass which could have been a resting spot, for a large animal. He says it looks like a small lion.
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December. A second water board employee says they too have spotted the cat near Heathy Park Reservoir.
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Winter - A "cat like beast" is spotted at Bushylease Farm, between Crondall and Ewshot.

1964

Summer - A calf is found dead, with marks similar to that made by a large cat attack, at the farm. A vet says he thinks the injuries have been caused by a non-native animal.
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27 September. 10:45pm. A large cat is seen by a motorist at Loxwood.
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28 September. 6.15pm. A woman spots a puma at Witley.
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29 September. 6.45am. A Puttenham road worker says he has come face to face with a puma.
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3 October. More reports come in of sightings in Hascombe, Hindhead and Elstead.

1965

A woman looking after her horses says a big cat leapt over her head, at Chiddingfold.

1966

A retired police photographer takes a photo in a garden in Churt, which he says shows a puma. Officials at Chessington Zoo and the Natural History Museum agree with him, however London Zoo officials don't.
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14 July. A big cat is spotted in fields near Ash Green. Three hours later, a puma is seen at Worplesdon, in a back garden.
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August. A puma is sighted at Cutt Mill and again at Wormley a few days later in another garden.
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4 September. A man says he saw a large cat "spring from a tree and speed off" in Milford.
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22 September. Two people report separate sightings of a puma on the Hogs Back. Later that evening a woman out walking her dog sees a puma on Stringers Common.
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7 September. The local Hascombe bobby PC. Bill Cooper from Surrey Police is asked investigate paw prints at Stileman's Racing Stables, in Munstead, between Hascombe and Godalming. The Police make a plaster cast of the prints. London Zoo officials identify the cast as a puma paw print. However the average puma paw is 3/4 inch smaller than the cast, which would mean the animal that made it would have been much bigger than any eyewitness has said.
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1964 to 1966. Godalming Police receive 362 reports of big cat sightings. A pest officer sent to investigate, suggests the likelihood, from the descriptions given, is the cat is a puma.

1968

A farmer claims to have shot a puma, but has no body to prove it.

1970s

1970

December. Large paw prints are found in the snow in a garden belonging to the Fraser family. They have the presence of mind to take a photo.
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Police Inspector Eric Bourn reports seeing a big cat which looks like a puma. He says it is ginger brown and the size of a Labrador. However, his colleague says it is black with two white spots on the left front leg!

1978

May. Mrs Anne Stanette is riding in Granger's Woods, Woldingham, and sees what she I believes is a lion rush across the road in front of her. "It ran from the Oxted side into thick bushes on the opposite side. It was about ten or twelve yards from me. It was a beige/light brown colour and had a small head in comparison with the rest of its body. It had no shaggy mane."

1980s

1984

Puma fur is allegedly found in Peaslake.

Late 1980s

Back in '87 or '88, early on a summer Sunday morning, Jan Gillies takes her dogs up to Bisley Green, on Church Lane. As she approaches the Green she looks around to see if there were any other dogs about and sees an animal the size of a labrador, but slimmer, jump up a bank and push through a garden hedge.

She told us she did not see its head, only the body but as it went through the hedge she saw the tail, which was not tapered like a dog's tail, but thick and curved just like a cat's tail. She told us "I had never heard of any other large cats being seen and when I told my family that I had seen a "panther" they laughed at me so much that I did not report it any further".

1990s

1995

Steve Ashcroft, a policeman from Bookham, claims he saw a puma chasing a roe deer by St Teresa's school.

1998

6 January. Jill Mussett, who lives in Cranleigh, spots a puma in the field behind her house. After watching it through binoculars from her bedroom window she says "I could see its lovely, sleek chocolate brown fur. It had gorgeous green eyes and pointed ears, with a long, sleek tail turned up at the end. It was about the size of a labrador but much sleeker. Its movements were certainly cat-like."

2000s

2000

4 August. 1.30pm. George and Barbara Quelsh see a "sandy coloured beast, twice the size of a domestic cat" on the Spectrum Leisure Centre running track in Guildford. Mrs Quelsh comments: "I said to my husband, look, there's a dog', but it wasn't. It lay on the green for a few minutes and then walked into the trees."

He adds: "It was twice the length of a domestic cat and had its tail curled up above the ground. It definitely wasn't a dog. It did not seem aggressive."

2003

June. Mr Ashcroft claims to have a second sighting of a large, rabbit-coloured cat at Holmbury.
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Two Kingston police officers report seeing a large black beast which runs across the road in front of them.

2004

April. Villagers in Abinger Common report more sightings of a huge cat.
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The Wildlife Trust apparently have taken reports of sightings of a puma-like animal in Bisley, Whitmoor Common, Kemishford and Rickford Common.
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Guildford resident, Pat Bird says a large cat has been sighted up at The Mount, around Henley Fort, just outside Guildford town centre.
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December 23rd. Mr and Mrs Cox, of Holford Road, report seeing a large black cat-like animal in Trodds Lane, Merrow, at 4pm.
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Leatherhead resident, 60 year old Bruce Burgess claims to have photographed a large brown cat, which is possibly a puma. Mr Burgess is surveying sites for a lake, at Brook Willow Farm in Woodlands Road, when he sees the big cat. His photos are too blurry to see what it actually is.

2005

Whitmoor Common. Two dogs chase a large puma-coloured, cat-like animal up a tree. The fire brigade are called, but the animal escapes.
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16 April. A woman and her housemate spot a huge black cat in Ewell at the the bottom of the garden. They say it is a black leopard.
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Two weeks after the Whitmoor Common sighting. A man called Harry Fowler videos a big cat at Winkworth Arboretum. In his footage, a bystander is heard to start saying "It's huge! It's walking like a cat."

2007

Jeffrey Howlett and his mother see what they say is a puma, in their carpark at Merrow. Jeffrey says "My mother spotted the black curley tail and moments later I saw the cat leap over a bush in to the under growth near by running along side a railway line. The scariest part was not the fact we had spotted it, it was we could not hear a sound even when it landed in the undergrowth of dry leaves and twigs! I contacted Surrey Police who later came out to verify what we had seen. I am now very weary about approaching my car late at night."

2008

Office worker Rebecca Palmer thinks she sees a big cat on the Hants/Surrey border, as she is driving through East Tisted.
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July. Camberley. Two members of Lesley Tanner's family see a black puma like cat on a housing estate. This was on separate nights at about 10 pm. Both times it was jumping across a road.
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Tuesday 26 August 2008 7.10am. Howard Jackson sees a big cat in East Horsley Camping and Caravanning club site between the lake and the W. Boundary of the site, walking parallel to the feeder stream. He says it disappeared into the undergrowth and was sandy coloured, with black/grey blotches in places with a long, thick tail. Roughly the height of a labrador, but longer, with rounder head and smaller ears. He doesn't tell the camp the site at the time, because "it was doing no harm - man is not its natural prey and feral cats keep well away from human contact if possible."
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Wednesday 1 October. Peter Broadbent is in Browns Lane, Effingham at at approximately 8.45am, opposite the field where the youngsters play rugby on a sunday morning. He sees a large, light coloured, cat type creature, about the size of a labrador.

It runs across the hedge line and into a gap in the hedge towards The Street. He says afterwards "I have always been very sceptical about all these sightings as I have worked on golf course throughout Surrey and never seen prints or any evidence of anything left behind by these so called big cats. Now my views have definitely changed as I am positive that what I saw that morning was something very unusual."
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October. Adrian Hockey of Guildford says he is walking home at about 11pm where his road backs on to fields to the east of Guildford. He sees a sleek black animal run from one field, across a dirt road into another field. He says it could have been a deer but did not seem the right shape and was very light footed and very black. This is the first of two sightings Adrian has but he does tell us he cannot be a 100% sure of either as they were both at night.
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Mid-October. Grosvenor Road, Chobham. Mike Gamaroff's 5 year old son comes running hysterically back to the house after playing at the end of their very large garden in Surrey.

Mike tells us "It's covered with trees and joined onto the neighbour's equally large garden, even more overgrown with trees and shrubs. The houses back onto a wide open field, and the whole area is rural and very leafy.

An otherwise brave boy, he was frightened and beside himself. He said he saw a large animal, darkened by the shadows, but no dog and definitely no cat. He described it as large as big dog but said it wasn't a dog and nobody on the street even has a dog. The creature did not attack, but was scared off by his alarmed screaming.

He is a clever boy, not prone to fantasy or an active imagination and he has never shown a reaction anything like this. There was definitely something which he described in fairly good detail, and now he doesn't like to go to the end of the garden unless accompanied. Once several months back, he came inside claiming he had seen a turtle in the garden. That was shrugged off as being his imagination, but some days afterward there was sign on our street with an appeal for a tortoise that had gone missing in the area."
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15 October. Graham Wright, who works at the Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey in Guildford, reports a big cat sighting in Dorrit Crescent in the town.

He says "At 5.30 this morning our dogs started barking to be let out as I went to the back door of our bungalow the automatic security light was on. About 20 feet down the garden was a Puma as the dogs started barking it looked towards me its eyes glowing it then jumped over the fence to the next door garden setting off their security light."

2009

January 1. Sarah Ramsay is startled at something making her front door rattle. She pulls back the door curtain and sees a large cat running down the door. It runs up the garden and under some bushes. The door glass is dimpled so is hard to make out. But to Sarah it looks like a very large gray cat with a very long tail.
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Saturday 10 January. Guildford. Adrian Hockey is running in the fields, at dusk and sees a black animal sitting upright. It is approximately 1 meter high, on a dirt track next to the field. He thinks it is too big to be a fox, and there are lots of rabbits living in that area, so it may have been stalking them.

This is the second of two sightings Adrian has but he does tell us he cannot be a 100% sure of either as they were both at night.

2010s

Saturday 15 February 11.30 am. Meryl Penning from Newdigate reports that she was looking out of the window at her vet's surgery, and saw a huge black cat coming out of the hedge at the far side of the field. She called other people to look. The cat sat briefly before wandering off along the hedge line, very unhurried. She says it was definitely feline, with a very long tail.

YOUR BIG CAT SIGHTINGS IN SURREY

Have you seen any big cats in the wild in Surrey? Email your sightings to surrey@bbc.co.uk




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