As usual the last winter, i had many sightings locally of large cats. this springtime i have had even more than usual. January and February are always the two hottest months for certain activity mainly breeding as the two large cat species leopard and puma have naturalised to our climatic conditions there tends to be peak breeding and birthing times that correspond with weather patterns and food availability. this happens everywhere on earth. in Britain, there are more vocalisations reported at this time of year as one would expect.these calls are often loud and very persistent at times and when people hear them they are at a loss as to what they are. Pumas wail loudly and persistently when a female is in heat and the sound is similar to a human being strangled as some say, yet the calls i have heard are just like amplified domestic cat sounds but more wild sounding and ear splitting. Lynx also call during winter and they could easily be mistaken for foxes as they sound similar. a vixen screams usually up the scale slightly and a lynx down the scale but very similar in duration and consistency.The fox usually has the typical husky tones to the scream and the lynx has the typical meow to the scream, often classed as a bark as it is similar also to some muntjack barks but not so obviously a bark but a wail or a sigh kind of sound. Lynx can breed every year and usually give birth in April or May, similar tom pumas of which may breed every second or even third year. leopards may breed every third or fourth year, sometimes every tow years depending on how long cubs remain with mother or when she comes into oestrous again. gestation period is approx a hundred days for leopard and slightly less for puma, lynx is less still.Most cubs of all these cats will peak their births during the early summer months but because there can be a high mortality, they can come into season later in the summer and produce later litters which will mean that cubs can be born in the autumn and rarely during the winter.I receive most reports of kittens or cubs during May and June, and july especially when cubs are moving around.
The sawing calls of leopards are heard more often these days, but many folk will not interpret them as even being from a wild animal when heard, but winter is a good time to hear them calling and also mid summer nights and even during the daytime.
The most commonly reported large cat colour is still jet black with no visible spots or markings.
I welcome any sightings, especially local to me as it helps build the bigger picture of movements by any individual animals and helps try to assess possible territorial routes and their habits especially entering towns or villages.Reports from the New forest are especially welcome at the moment, as there is a lot going on as usual within this area and surrounds.
Any reports from the Cranborne, Fordingbridge area will be greatly received as i am working with other people on certain cases in these areas.
Many folk may think that the subject of out of place large Felids stops at the UK, but that is not so. Many other people who are involved in the subject will acknowledge the fact that it is world wide and especially in all western countries; this actually adds evidence to the cause because it means that wherever humans have kept large cats, they have seemingly escaped, been let loose and then established themselves and often naturalised. Australia and New Zealand are two such places where the phenomenon has taken hold over a very long period of time similar to the UK. Of course the U.S.A would have had many cat keepers who had escaped animals or released them and so there are many reports of black panther type cats in the U.S.A. Many of these will surely be black panthers as they were kept just like they were in Britain and Australia.Some of the black cats seen maybe black pumas inbred due to small gene pools which will naturally conjure up recessive genes as this happens with many animal species that become inbred.this may have occurred in Britain also and other countries. But it is the European mainland now that is in the limelight regarding large cats and over the last couple of years many reports of leopards and puma like animals have surfaced from France, Spain, Germany at least . Many of these animals have been caught on camera, some of them on security cams within busy suburbs including Paris.The cat that was featured on YouTube a month or so ago is very interesting because one cannot decipher whether or not it is a puma or a leopard. the footage shows a large long leopard like cat without doubt but the head is rather small in relation to body size. the tail is long enough to be that of a leopard and the overall thickness is more leopard like but it has dark area where there would be dark area on a leopards tail but the rest of the body fur looks uniform in colour unless it is heavily over exposed but then why would the black on the tail show up so well? Maybe this animal is a lucistic individual to some extent, or inbred, or may have light spotting which could not be picked up by the camera or just maybe, it could be a hybrid between a leopard and a puma !. another question that should be asked is what is it doing in Paris suburbs ? well if mainland Europe is similar in the same way as the Uk regarding cat species and numbers of them then they will be following the same rules. Perhaps both leopard and pumas or leopards have naturalised and are spreading out looking for territories just like over here in the UK, as many of these species move through built up areas including London. Many of these cats actually live in cities just like the leopards in India, Indonesia and Africa. It is all to be expected really.
I am very sorry for the state of my website lately. there are many things that need to be changed, deleted or added.Unfortunately I do not do the main basic developments regarding technicalities of this website and rely on other people to help me do that.I have no person at the moment to help and those that were managing my site have let me down and not bothered to do what needs to be done. Also I have difficulties even uploading new material as it seems to disappear ! for no apparent reason. I can only access my three blogs and with difficulty for unknown reasons.It maybe connected to word press and 4.7.2 which has been infected.Can someone help ? Please bare with me, thanks. Jonathan
The tracks of leopards in one of my study areas are persistent, especially at drinking sites where they also ambush prey species such as deer and foxes.
Here is a photo of a leopard spore from another of my study areas, taken by Steve whiting.
In another of my study areas,large scats often appear at regular intervals and at the same places. This scat contains the hooves of deer.
Most naturalised large cats within Britain time there breeding cycles to seasons allowing births of cubs to happen in the warmer start of the year, and when there is more food available. all cats and most mammals do this for obvious reasons. leopards and pumas here are most likely to mate in January or February .If a cat looses its kittens or cubs early then they will come in season again meaning that cubs may be born at more inconvenient times.I managed to get out briefly a few weeks ago and managed to record both puma and leopard activity within the same area on one day. there had been many reports of a pair of puma cubs apparently alone perhaps just left mother, whilst a female leopard was active in the same area and a large male black leopard was seen several times by other members of the public.
It would seem that it one of my study areas mating activity or territorial behaviour has been rife lately with leopard and puma visiting the same place and possible interacting even if it is just territorial behaviour such as scrapes.
The tracks of a male leopard follow those of a smaller female
Fore feet of large cats are usually wider and slightly larger than the hind feet which are slimmer and the toe pads are more angles especially in females.
Leopard and puma prints were in the same locality and fur was lying in the middle of the path suggesting a fight had happened. This is more common than people think.
The tracks of male and female leopard
Scrapes are an integral part of large and medium cat territorial marking. they do it by scraping the hind feet into the ground making furrows with a mound of earth at one end and laying scent from glands in the feet. this acts as a visual and scenting mark. Cats do this when especially other animals are near the same areas. they can act as a boundary or reminder that the territory is taken or mark from males to discourage other males or from females for other females. Most scrapes are probably from females if they are consistent in the same places every few days. Males will mark less often as they have larger territories but tend to mark in similar places. Scraping increases with meetings between rivals.
Here are a few of the casts that I made.
Pug marks of puma cubs.
Over the last few years,conservation bodies have been very fascist regarding so called alien species.
We used to have at least two native species of deer the roe (Capriolus capriolus), and the Red deer (Cervus elaphus).The roe,has been common since the turn of the last century, as before it was rare in many parts of England due to the past laws and the deer removal act, so for over a hundred years the species only held on in more remote areas. Dorset was a stronghold and is responsible for harbouring the species allowing recolonization later to many other parts of Southern England.It has since been very common in the county whilst the red deer became extinct as a wild species outside the New forest. Before the second world war, red deer were still common in Purbeck and grazed the natural heathlands. There were not many natural predators to keep them healthy, but hunting humans finished them off along with loss of habitat. There was a gap of time without herd deer in Purbeck, but small herds of fallow deer ( Dama dama) existed. These herds are now few and far between. the japanese sika deer (Cervus japonicus) filled the gap after nineteen hundred and have since been the main herd deer within Purbeck. they did a grand job in keeping the heaths open, and as they grew in numbers the heaths became very species rich with insects feeding on them and their droppings boosting the bio diversity. The sika rarely overgrazed and in most areas where there are or were, huge herds the heath wasn’t overgrazed but managed and where the herds prevailed, the birds and reptiles flourished in a way that was natural. the heath became alive and one could walk within grazed areas and be overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of insect life.In the wake of the sika explosion, the few big cats that found there way to Purbeck had what seemed to be a natural feeding area full of life. the cats bred and every few years several young cats would move out to other areas from this perfect fatherland. There was a constant turnover of young animals moving out to populate other areas where large cats did not exist or were thin on the ground. The cats bred as there needs to be large herds to sustain a mother and two or three offspring. One individual large cat such as a puma or a leopard will kill one large or adult deer a week. this is the norm.so the herds need to be large enough to cater for a number of these animals. When the herds have been unnaturally shrunk by humans, then the cats suffer and they have poor breeding seasons. Now the British conservation bodies have waged war on alien species, the cats will suffer and problems may occur due to the fact that there is an elimination programme regarding sika deer.
surely one does not need to be a rocket scientist to see what the problem could be.since all types of people have been killing whole herds of deer, there have also been more reports of pet dogs and cats going missing, and many sheep and cattle are being killed and eaten by large cats who would normally eat the deer. this is not all, in fact there have been several human fatalities in the past and this may get worse if the conservation bodies do not take the big cat phenomenon seriously, and write them into the equation. No conservation works unless one knows what species there are in any area and what effect they have on the environment. As most people do not believe that there are at least three species of large cat living wild in Britain then not a lot is going to change. Matters could become more serious. Although large cats need large animals such as deer they can adapt without them, but then other species will be at risk, and especially livestock.
One of my main research area has had a clamp down of wild deer, Japanese sika deer. this is or was the principle food item for pumas and leopards within this area. now the deer have been eliminated causing the heaths to cover over with pine trees. It is so sad to see a working thriving ecosystem fall apart because of miss management. The conservation bodies are failing due to their uneducated stance on big cats.
This is what the Arne nature reserve now looks like. the heath is covered with small sapling pines about three years old. Without deer grazing the heath, many species of insects will disappear and that will have a knock on effect for the reptiles and birds. Where money is involved it seems people will do anything, and grazing heavy marauding cattle gives conservation bodies money from Europe. Many barbed wire fences have gone up causing distress and injury to wild deer and other mammals and birds.Deer need to move around and so do the cats.I am now finding more large cat scats with rabbit and bird remains in rather than deer.
There needs to be balance and respect.
At the Bournemouth natural science society, a small fallow deer antler was just placed on a table , found by Steve Limburn. I noticed that it had all the hallmarks of being bitten by a large cat , most likely leopard so when i placed a genuine leopard skull and dentition next to it, it was clear to see that the trauma reflected by the carnassial teeth. Also the cat had tried biting lower down causing imprints but the antler was too hard to break at that point, so it then just managed to bite off the end.This antler was naturally cast so the cat would have to have just happened upon it and decided to eat it. This must happen in the same way as many other animals finding antlers and bones and deciding to eat them. antlers are full of calcium and other elements and vitamins which cats need especially growing or pregnant females.Often large cats eat some of the growing antlers on the deer kills they make, or the velvet surrounding antlers but it is unusual for a cat to find a dropped antler and eat it, or is it ? I am sure it must be more common and simply not found or documented.
tooth pit analysis is an important scientific method of evaluating predator, prey relationships on prey species.I find these types of evidence far more real than photographs, something that most researchers dote on, yet as we see very little obvious evidence has arisen from trail cams, a way we all thought was the best way of achieving results and proving that large cats exist in the wild in Britain(or other countries). this has proved wrong and I think that researchers should adopt the more scientific approach if we are to convince a very sceptical public or scientific fraternity!.Fortunately at least one academic establishment have seen sense.The Royal agricultural college at cirencester has taken a leading role in tooth pit analysis, led by Dr Andrew Hemmings, some of his students have worked on this very interesting thesis and come up with amazing results. More later on this subject.
To say that the big cat phenomenon has gone quiet would be a severe understatement. It can only get bigger . During the last few weeks every bodies attention had been drawn to the escaped lynx from Dartmoor zoo. when this thing happens one gets peoples views on the subject.Most people did not want the poor animal to be caught and placed back behind wire, and many people thought that it should remain in the wild to find a mate and live how it should do. Yes people know that there are many wild lynxes throughout Britain doing just what they did before they became extinct. Not many people kicked up a fuss though ! but one lady claimed to have run one over and just assumed that it was the escaped individual ! did anyone follow it up ? if they did we will possibly not know about it. It just goes to show that people report things at certain times due to media activity when they otherwise would not.It is unfortunate that the animal killed a few lambs; this is not the normal thing for a wild lynx to do as they prefer wild animals but a young animal may occasionally kill livestock. most large cats rarely or never attack livestock but with so many large cats now living in Britain, it is inevitable that a few sheep,cattle or other form of livestock are taken. Again, most attacks on sheep are from domestic dogs.
On other notes, due to my escalating illness, I am unable to do much field research, but I can do lots more in the way of advising people and directing willing people to go out and get results. Many more people are becoming interested in the subject as more and more evidence comes to hand. I have had several interested people finding all manner of evidence lately, usually in the form of footprints and scats. Here are one or two pics from this summer from an active area of mine.
Most of the old territorial areas are now out of bounds for me and I have to concentrate my findings from areas where I need not do much walking.The good thing about large cat research is the fact that one does not need to go to pristine wilderness and walk for miles. One can simply pull up alongside a busy main road where lots of people go to walk their dogs in a local park and find evidence often. Many pumas and leopards live in towns and cities, even in Britain but are not often seen by people.On the other hand most people would not know what to look for !
A woodland ride may be visited by a territorial male or female cat and regularly leave tell tale evidence in the form of scats in this case,a male leopard visits this particular area every eight to fourteen days and deposits scats in several areas.Two feet from the main path a scat lies in the shorter grass for other leopards to notice.
The scat is made up of deer fur, and is deeply twisted like most leopard scats, and is very large. A lot of this scat was buried by dor beetles.(common dung beetles)Within the scat can be found the hoof remains of deer along with deer hairs, skin and bone.
One can see four due hooves from a roe deer embedded within.
Nearby, the tell-tale evidence of the cat using trees.Claw marks are visible in the typical way. Below is a leopard hair caught in the shaft of a cormorants tail feather. Both leopard and puma will eat these large birds and I have found much evidence over the years that leopards love them.Sometimes heron,Canada goose,mute swan and cormorant remains have been found half a mile away from the water. Large cats like to eat in peace in areas they know and feel secure in, even if it means taking the food item into thick forest.
Every year when holiday season gets going, less large cat sightings are reported and less field evidence gets reported in. the movements of people seem to effect the movements of cats, but as usual I get reports from people being on holiday in Dorset and they see a large cat or two.Several recent sightings have been of multiple animals such as four leopard sized cats together, or three lynxes. this is circumstantial evidence of breeding, along with my own sightings of cubs in the past.Unfortunately I have been unable to get out much lately to study these animals and my own studies have vertually come to a halt due to my medical conditions, hence the lack of info lately.I have finished writing my book the British Big Cat phenomenon, the Dorset enigma, and am now searching for a publisher. any offers ? Below id the carcass of a roe doe
carcass that had been turned inside out by at least one large cat feeding from it. More pics to follow soon.
Last weekend,The Autumn equinox saw the first of its kind to be held in the county.The idea was to invite all the main big cat researchers to one venue to share their data and to discuss the future of the way in which we would like to go about researching and studying the phenomenon.We invited twenty leading researchers from across Britain to attend, but numbers were not as high as expected, but still with sixteen people attending wee had a brilliant time.One of the highlights of the event was to search for cat field sighns within the Purbeck areas, in fact just outside the venue was active big cat country, and one reason as to why I wanted to have such an event here was because of the amount of evidence on our doorstep and and to show other people how to look for the evidence.We found enough.
The top photo shows the delegates at the venue. We were testing if dogs see the shape of large cats.These German short haired pointers did to some extent but they knew that they were not real !
The second photo shows a typical large cat scat found in a place we call leopard valley, a small area of dense heathland with stream and vegetation. The scat is fourteen inches long and contained just the hair of sika deer.
The third photo is of a very fresh scrape from an area where a large male leopard regularly leaves his mark above the area where one of his females hunts and leaves her marks on the ground. We also found two paw prints, one actually within the scrape, along with eight claw marks, and another a few meters away.
Photo four, shows tree marking by a large cat scoring down the trunk of a small tree.Usually cats choose smooth barked trees such as beech, sycamore or ash but in this case a willow makes do. The annual deer rut often has an effect on the large cats as food is easy to obtain and territorial marking reflects their keenness to remain in any given area where many deer are pre occupied with mating and rutting. The smells of the deer within the woodland and heaths turns the cats on even more than usual and it is a time to find all kinds of field evidence.At present the sika deer rut has hardly began so I look forward to finding more evidence within the coming weeks.
Photo five, shows remains of an eaten deer showing the tooth pits of the carnassial teeth on the pelvis of a sika deer.
One odd behaviour characteristic that several researchers have concluded is that many of the large black animals possibly being leopards seem to move around at certain times of year coinciding with movements of people; for example, in the summer months in areas where human activity is high, the cats seem to vanish and keep a low profile and their field signs cannot be found often for several months. I have found this on the isle of Purbeck where most of my study areas are. The cats seem to move away after the May bank holiday and go deeper into the forests, only to return in September time ! this seems to happen every year and I am not surprised as so many people visit beaches and heathland sites that the cats do not like the disturbance. This also means that territories are not exactly static and there must be some give and take between rivals. However, just as I predicted, the beginning of September would again yield scats and scrapes in the usual area. below is the first scat found for eight weeks in my most prolific study area.
This is a cat scat possibly the same female leopard that marks her area for the last seven years in this spot. I expect to find more as autumn approaches and the behaviour change in the Sika deer ( the main prey ) also triggers reaction from the leopards. These scats are no good for D.N.A analysis as they dry out so quickly in the hot sun and they are rarely found fresh.