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Records reveal growing number of sightings of 'beast of Cumbria'

The mystery surrounding the controversial 'beast of Cumbria' continues as police records reveal a rise in reported sightings – including several attacks on livestock.

Concerned walkers, hikers and farmers have contacted Cumbria Police to report everything from a “black panther” to a “lion or lioness”.

Distressed callers also describe mutilated sheep, slaughtered lambs and decapitated deer.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the News & Star has highlighted the growing scale of public concerns, with 24 reported sightings in five years.

In the response to the paper, the force explained that it had searched its records using the key words “big cat”, “large cat”, “puma” and “panther”.

A similar request by this newspaper in 2006 recorded just nine sightings in the previous six years.

The latest records do not provide the exact location of the sightings, but break them down into areas of the county.

Between June 1, 2008 and April 11, 2013 there were 14 sightings in the south, nine in the north and one in the west.

Almost all of those in the past year have been in the north.

One call log states: “Caller was walking and came across a very large sandy-coloured cat. Caller said was a lion or lioness about the size of a labrador but had a huge tail with light stripes.”

Another records: “Further sighting of ‘the large cat’ – caller believes it is a black panther... They have more sheep lying dead. Caller said the animal is currently in the woods.”

The mystery of the big cat is one that has always divided the public into believers and sceptics, with many people never reporting their sighting to the police or other agencies for fear of ridicule.

Last year the News & Star reported that Raymond Sant and his wife Vera had spotted a large creature which looked “very much like a panther” as they went from their home in Thursby along the bypass towards Asda, Carlisle.

PC Helen Branthwaite, Cumbria Police’s wildlife officer, said: “We wish to reassure the public that the reports of this nature are extremely rare and all sightings are investigated thoroughly to establish the full facts.

“We work closely with farmers and community groups to address any concerns and look forward to continuing this in the new year.”

The FoI response said the force did not hold a record of exactly how much time was spent investigating sightings of big cats.

“The incidents logs for the reports referred to were ‘open’ for a total of 54 hours and 18 minutes,” it continued. “Please note this does not mean that this was the amount of time which was actually spent investigating the reports.”

Have your say

i seen a black cat ,looked like a lynx back in the mid 90s while driven a taxi through seaton ,my first reaction was there must be a circus in town and its escaped ,when I returned to base and told my collegues they laughed ,so I never reported it ,but to this day I know what I seen was a lynx

Posted by john on 14 January 2014 at 07:44

weres the photographic evidence! everyone has a mobile phone thats got got a camera.

Posted by george T 90 on 11 January 2014 at 09:04

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