Saturday 26 November 2022

"Who's "She" the Cat's Mother?" Britain's Big Cat Issue #SoggyMoggySyndrome #BigCatsUK #Rewilding


"Throughout recent history there has been an endless stream of eye-witness reports from across the entirety of Britain, which continues to this day; from the windswept, cold and mountainous regions of northern Scotland, to the rolling green moors and woodlands of southern England, there is no shortage of sightings and reports of encounters with these beasts. Indeed, it may seem that almost every town and village in Britain has its own legend and local folklore of an unusual large cat, and there are plenty of farmers who will attest to the damage these creatures can do.

Britain has a long, colourful and complicated history of having a diverse exotic pet trade; from the days of the old British Empire, until the mid-20th century, it was deemed an indicator and symbol of status, wealth and fashion to own exotic pets, (especially big cats). The surprising popularity of extravagant exotic cat ownership in Britain is captured beautifully by the well-known viral video of ‘A Lion called Christian’; a lion cub purchased in the 1960s from the famous Knightsbridge department store, ‘Harrods’.

Incidents and reports spiralled out of control in the 1960s; and with the later introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in 1976, the situation only intensified, as exotic cat owners sought to alleviate themselves of the impending burdens of unfeasibly increased costs to obtain and retain a license to legally keep their pets. The introduction of this legislation served as a major catalyst for many unregistered private big cat owners to deliberately release their animals in preference of having them terminated."

I have been “involved" in this story for many years. My father and step mother's former house  (known when a drover's inn as the "Red Cow"), on the banks of the Tawe in the Brecon Beacons, was situated very close to several sightings; Da even reported to me that a local farmer had either lost control of, or released, a lurcher when they had spotted what looked like a leopard, the lurcher did not return and was later found dead. A friend of mine claimed she had a pug-casting of a big cat having spotted one in the New Forest (unfortunately it was lost in a house-move), another friend claimed he saw a cat the size of a medium-sized dog (see documentary re: size of East Asian leopards), on Southampton Common (where there is a sizeable deer population).

Quote: "One startled eyewitness was the assistant priest of Itchen Valley Parish, Rev Alex Pease, who was driving on Chilland Lane when he spotted the cat in the road on Sunday evening.

Straight away Mr Pease wanted to find out whether anyone else had seen the feline, and discovered that there had been several sightings in the Itchen Valley area.

He was convinced he may have seen a genet – a a slender cat-like carnivore with a long body, a long ringed tail, which is native to Africa.

Mr Pease said: “When I saw it on Sunday evening it was just after dark and I was driving along Chilland Lane and pictured it in my headlights and I thought ‘what on earth is that’.

“I would say it is larger than a normal cat with a much larger and bushier tail, but the thing was its distinctive black face and pointed ears.

“It turned round and looked at me at one stage and then sauntered off down the path."

 I have been a frequent visitor to the Dales, Brecon Beacons and New Forest and now live on top of much semi-rural and wooded land, on the eastern border of Southampton and south-western border of Eastleigh, so I keep my eye out for evidence of cats and carry a camera.

 Whilst the experts and campaigners worry about the presence of  such animals has anyone considered the veterinary requirements of  these apex predators which were "reintroduced"* to Britain in such an ill-considered way? I have identified “soggy moggy syndrome” as one reason why I have received “bad vibes” from our countryside on occasion. It is a good job most of our domestic canines are well cared for too as “Distemper” can also effect big cats (and that very badly).
Can you imagine what rheumatoid-arthritic conditions do to magnificent animals such as big cats which rely on their flexibility and agility to survive? What a dreadful thing to inflict on such beautiful creatures. I would consider leaving baits laced with “Devil” and/or “Cat’s” Claws** in order to try and ameliorate conditions forced upon these animals as a result of having to live under the climatic conditions found in these isles.
That’s what scepticism imposes too, stay in denial and the animal suffers! I often wonder how true this is for cryptids (creatures still unknown to science), and how much we are endangering them by our thoughtless behaviours.
  Have you noticed strange silences when out in the woods or (perhaps even more tellingly), strange bird or animal calls you were not familiar with as a child? I think I have. One may also find ones-self with a semi-open mouth washing air over your taste buds and sinuses, I’ve caught myself doing this on a number of occasions, it’s how big cats identify areas that have been marked by both other animals and members of their own species.

*Nb. Quote; "Panthera pardus spelaea, sometimes called the European Ice Age leopard or Late Pleistocene leopard, is a fossil leopard subspecies, which roamed Europe in the Late Pleistocene. The youngest known bone fragments date to about 32,000 to 26,000 years ago, and are similar in size to modern leopard bones.[1]" .....

" The European Ice Age leopard's skull was medium-long, and its characteristics are closest to the Panthera pardus tulliana subspecies. An apparent depiction of this leopard in the Chauvet Cave shows a coat pattern similar to that of modern leopards but with a unspotted belly, presumably white. Like other mammals, leopards from the cold glacial periods of the Late Pleistocene are usually larger than those from the warm interglacial phases. As in modern leopards, there was a strong sexual dimorphism, with males being larger than females.[1]"

**Nb.: &

 Here's another documentary on the subject:

 Also, quote; "Britain's top tracker of big cats says that Britain has a population of leopards and pumas that is breeding and booming.

Rhoda Watkins has spent more than 20 years investigating big cats using her specialist knowledge to monitor their behaviour.

She has now gathered enough evidence to be certain of the presence of these animals in the UK - and claims there is now a healthy breeding population.":

 When I aired this subject on the #5Filters message board ("Hosing away the Permanent Bullshit Blizzard of the lamestream media" ), I was not surprised to immediately receive a number of reports of sightings from out cognoscenti, quote; "I’m 99% certain Iz and I saw a big cat in Cornwall back in 2004. We were off to see Tregeseal stone circle, associated sites, and Carn Kenidjack - we’d pulled into a layby just off the B3318 and were making our way down a track towards a farm and as we came around a bend in the track this creature poured over the 4ft dry stone wall to our right - it was like black liquid - beautiful and alarming - we both froze, my whole body tingled with fear and excitement - Iz said she experienced similar feelings - - quick as a flash it shot off down towards the farm - - here’s a thing: Iz is a fine photographer, quick on the draw, seldom phased and a sharp shooter - that day, as usual on such jaunts, her trusty Pentax was slung over her shoulder - but damn, in that moment, such was the extraordinary thing we were seeing her reflexes failed her. Naturally, when we’d collected ourselves we headed off after the creature - we speculated that it might be a farm dog and would no doubt greet us with barks when we approached the yard, though I knew that no dog could have taken that wall with such graceful ease - and no, when we entered the yard there wasn’t a soul in sight. So we carried on towards the stone circles - though I must say the next hour or so was trepidatious to say the least - - ha! we were worried that we might be set upon by whatever panther-like creature it was that we most surely saw." .. and ..

"I suspect that we had a black leopard living in, or at least visiting, the square-mile of secluded quarry land behind my place. At that time, my two Turkish Shepherd Dogs were strangely keen to get inside the quarryland fence, then shoot off into the wilderness. They were never involved in injuries. But at one time when all three of us were wandering - illicitly - in the quarryland, I believe I saw, just momentarily, in the middle distance the familiar outline: big as a Labrador, black, long clubbed tale, definitely a cat…

Leopards in particular are known to have what seem close-to-magical powers of staying hidden and - completely - unnoticed; lots of astonishing stories about that, urban leopards in particular.

Some years ago, a completely hidden breeding population of leopards was discovered, in the Sinai desert. Even local people had not known of their presence.

Colour me quixotic, but I hope we have, and can sustain, a breeding population of such cats in Britain."

  In the documentary “Britain’s Big Cat Mystery” we are told that interbreeding of populations of mammals (esp. where such animals do not share a boundary such as do Grizzly Bears and Polar Bears -the “Pizzly”-, and there has been no establishment of an historical relationship), do not produce viable males only “mules” (although -apparently -, females capable of breeding can be), however, we are also told that two distinct types of big cat have been spotted, these being, cougars/mountain lions, and the smaller of the black leopards (the East Asian variety), this suggests that it was from these two gene pools that the majority of the “domesticated” cats were drawn and that these have “bred-true”. This explains how and why there may well now (as I believe), be a viable ongoing breeding population of big cats in our country.
  My old friend the Rev. John Knopf (RIP, Minister Emeritus Edmund Kell Unitarian Church Oxon. Cantab.), was a fund of information on many subjects and had worked in Africa in the late 50s early 60s (Kenya -because of his work with the IOC and the Kalenjin Tribe he was consulted by the author of the book “The Running Tribe”-, and Nigeria), and he told me a story about leopards in South Africa. Apparently, some decades ago now, a wildlife sanctuary was transporting a female leopard as part of a breeding programme, unfortunately, she escaped whilst they were travelling through Johannesburg, frantic they immediately launched a recapture mission, however, after they had caught nine leopards, none of which being the female they were looking for, they realised that leopards had been living in the city for hundreds of years and nobody knew they were there!

 Apparently there is, quote; "Precisely the same story from India, G. Can’t just lay hands on the source now, but I’m sure it’s findable. Just that I have to go out and do some out-doors stuff in a minute.

The story was that a man-killing leopard was on the loose in an Indian city, and lots of baited traps were set out to catch it. I seem to remember that seven leopards were caught, not one of which had been known to be in the city before. Urban foxes could take lessons from them!"

So keep your eyes open but be cautious you don't want this to happen to you (disturbing deer mother's can also be dangerous): 

 If you do live in an area that you suspect might be supporting a big cat population keep your eye out for pug-marks on trails (big cat tracks are very distinctive, paraphr; "Dog track is like an oval, cat track is -more-, like a circle"):

..especially during wet weather (like that which we have been experiencing this November), and maybe purchase some Plaster of Paris to make a cast:

Quote; "There are some clues that will help you tell the difference between dog and cat tracks. Dogs include such species as red and gray foxes, coyotes, wolves and domestic dogs. Cats include mountain lions, bobcats, lynx, and domestic cats. Lynx tracks have some unique features of their own, so are not treated here. What is said here should apply to bobcats, mountain lions and domestic cats." Go to:

Please, however, as I would say about any wild creature you are not specifically and legally hunting for the pot, do not shoot one unless your, or someone else's, life is in danger. Trophy hunting is one of the main reasons why so many species are on the brink of extinction.

 Remember the three criteria which are vital for the survival (and esp. maintenance of population), of any (sub-arctic), land based mammalian predator species prey, fresh water and shelter and be aware when you are in an area where (esp.), all three of these conditions are met.

 As the experience from South Africa and India shows (see above), simply removing these creatures from the environment is almost certainly going to prove extremely difficult if not impossible. So should our re-wilding efforts include not only the; wolf, bear and lynx but the leopard as well? Given that it would seem that the big cats are already here we should concentrate our efforts on their veterinary concerns. It may well be the case that in order to restore the ecological balance we are ourselves have upset by our ill-considered policies and actions "fast tracking" the re-wilding of the species that re-populated these islands following the last retreat of the ice-sheets, will prove to be necessary .Where that will leave us with regard to the presence of a creature that did not return (of its own volition), to these shores as the ice sheets finally retreated is an ecological question I doubt anyone is currently able to answer (the musk ox is an interesting case for, if the leopard is to remain, the presence of an inter-glacial/"intermediate" species might be necessary to maintain equilibrium*). Climate change not withstanding, in-fact that may be the point, for it is, surely, by direct engagement with natural systems that we learn best how to repair, reinvigorate and rejuvenate our environment and the longest of journeys begin with but a single step.

 Perhaps all this simply exemplifies the maxim that, "a leopard cannot change its spots!"

*Nb. "By the Mindel, muskoxen had also reached the British Isles. Both Germany and Britain were just south of the Scandinavian ice sheet and covered in tundra during cold periods, but Pleistocene muskoxen are also rarely recorded in more benign and wooded areas to the south like France and Green Spain, where they coexisted with temperate ungulates like red deer and aurochs. Likewise, the muskox is known to have survived in Britain during warm interglacial periods.[12]

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