ESSEX may have grabbed recent headlines, but the lion’s share of big cat sightings have come from the West Midlands.
The expanse of countryside between Birmingham and the Black Country – particularly Cannock Chase – has become a mane attraction for experts hunting lions, panthers, jaguars and even tigers.
Our patch has also suffered from the lynx effect, reports reveal.
And the alert that following Bank Holiday reports of a lion roaming St Osyth, near Clacton, pales against the thick dossier of sightings on our doorstep.
What’s more, that one turned out to be a shaggy dog – sorry, cat – story.
Just last month a so-called tiger sighting in Kingswinford turned out to be a fancy dress reveller on his way home.
Whether it’s the Cannock Chase panther or the wildcat of Cannon Hill Park, sightings of big cats are increasing.
According to the latest figures from the British Big Cats Society, 71 wild cats have been seen in Staffordshire, 48 in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, 33 in Shropshire and two in Warwickshire. There are numerous other unregistered incidents.
Nationally the total number of sightings this year has topped 2,300, compared to 2,123 last year and 780 in 2003.
Many believe animals seen today are descendents of beasts released into the wild over 40 years ago. In the 1960s, The animals were popular pets and could even be purchased in Harrods. But in 1976 the law changed and strict licensing laws were introduced over ownership of big cats. Licences were expensive and this drove some owners to simply dump their prized pets.
Arguments rage over whether cats could have survived and bred in the British countryside.
The British Big Cats Society has received more than 300 sightings across the Midlands in the last eight years.
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