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EP:102 Fight or flight? Cumbria’s cornered cat

Charles reflects on his two encounters with a black panther or leopard, 21 years apart, both while caravanning and trekking in Cumbria. 

For the first incident Charles was in touching distance of the big cat as he entered his caravan awning and discovered it there – Charles recounts the moments he found himself closed in with a panther beside him… 

 Word of the week:   catstycam

 19 November 2022

EP:101 Lake District leopards

We catch up with Cumbrian investigator Sharon Larkin at the end of the Westmorland Show where Rick and Sharon were meeting witnesses and visitors to the big cat stand.

Sharon explains how she follows up reports on her Facebook page, Big Cats in Cumbria. She describes several of her own encounters with large black cats and she justifies why she believes these are leopards, including the one she photographed near Gretna in 2014 as it spooked cows and consumed a rabbit.  

South West investigator Paul Ramsden visited the show and also chipped in, comparing Cumbria’s big cat landscape with his home base in Gloucestershire. He and Sharon recount their highlights from people’s reports at the big cat stand at the show. 

We are also joined by Ian, Sharon’s husband. He describes his own big cat sighting and he and Sharon reflect on the family’s experience living with the subject and owning two cats bred from servals… 

More show notes, photos and messages are on this link… 

Words of the week:   savannah cats

30 September 2023

EP:100 Where the wild things are

For our centenary show we met with 25 contacts in a Herefordshire pub, to talk big cats, sample the local cider, and eat celebration panther cakes. 

We heard sighting reports from Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Dorset – two of which were genuinely ‘close’ encounters.  David, one of the witnesses, also described the perfect footage he’d been shown of a black leopard in Herefordshire.

Mark Graves led a discussion on tracking and ‘where next?’ for investigating big cats, and we heard different views on how best to use a sum of £5,000 for getting more evidence. 

When we discussed big cats in our culture, Fleur reminded us of Roman finds in Britain in which the Greek god of wine and dance Dionysus is accompanied by a panther… 

Look out for Youtube extracts of this episode 100 to be linked on the Big Cat Conversations website and YT Channel in late August 2023.  

Word of the week:   spoor

19 August 2023

EP:99 The dumping grounds – exploring the rogue wildlife

Phebe has been following-up big cat reports in different places for 30 years.  She’s been trusted with local information on big cat incidents, and has witnessed a lynx in Hertfordshire and two black leopards together in SW Wales.

We hear of her own cat encounters and some memorable information she’s received from friends and contacts experiencing big cats. We also discuss whether the reported cats may be staying close to the sources of their first releases, or if other suitable areas are becoming a sink for them.   

Words of the week:   exotic animals  

29 July 2023

EP:98 Derbyshire dales – hidden homes of the big cats

Gareth is a reporter for local papers in Derbyshire and joins us as another journalist guest on the podcast, following Tristan in episode 94. 

Gareth has had a long-term interest in big cat encounters and has glimpsed one himself. He explains how big cat stories get high hit rates in the media, so local newspapers welcome news of people’s sightings.  

Gareth describes some key big cat events in Derbyshire, including the release of lynx at the former Riber Castle zoo, the long-running Carsington Beast reports, and a farmer finding his dogs confronting a lynx.  

Gareth also reflects on the time he received a hoax report and photo, and Rick refers to some recent big cat cases in Derbyshire and a TV show episode due in Summer 2023 which features Derbyshire big cat cases. 

See our Refs and Links page at  for details of the May 2023 YouGuv survey on people’s belief in big cats living wild in Britain. 

Words of the week:   media algorithm

7 July 2023

EP:97 Crossing paths with a Glastonbury panther

In the first half we hear from Jayne – she caught sight of a black panther with several of her jogging friends one morning this year in Somerset. Other friends had previously told her of their alleged reports at the Glastonbury festival area. 

In the second half, Mark Graves returns after episode 95. He reflects on a recent day spent with big cat investigators in Gloucestershire, and he explains how he survived a crocodile attack during his time in South Africa.      

Words of the week:   aposematic colouration

17 June 2023

EP:96 Gamekeeper big cat diaries

George is a retired gamekeeper in Herefordshire. He recounts his sighting of a local black panther, and many years before, a puma in a forest near Bodmin in Cornwall. 

George also discusses his regrets at shooting an adult black panther as well as what appeared to be a young one, in recent years in Herefordshire – local farmers were experiencing sheep kills at the time. George explains why both the shot cats matched the description of a leopard.

George considers that from his experience, farmers and keepers may tolerate big cats if they avoid sheep predation.     

Word of the week:   DNA

26 May 2023

EP:95 Living with leopards – Africa & Britain compared

Former South African farmer & wilderness guide Mark Graves briefs us on living with leopards in South Africa, where he has guided Kruger National Park visitors and trained trackers on leopards and the Big 5. 

Mark takes us through some of his close observations of leopards and he explains the moments when he once had to face and retreat from an advancing lioness. Now based in Britain, Mark discusses the large cats reportedly living here, and considers how we can live alongside them. 

 Word of the week:   anthropomorphism 

5 May 2023

EP:94 West Country big cats – behind the headlines

Tristan is senior reporter at the Bristol Post newspaper where big cat stories are rare. In contrast, he routinely heard of people’s big cat incidents in his former role with the Western Daily Press.  

We hear highlights of the big cat accounts he reported on, and learn how he realised big cat sightings were a genuine  part of the rural scene. Then one day, a large stealthy black animal arrived in his own local fields…   

 Word of the week:   clickbait

14 April 2023

EP:93 From Oxford to Exmoor – panthers in the pastures

Steve our guest has spent half a lifetime investigating big cat reports in southern England – he takes us through key events in Oxfordshire in recent years, including the search for a puma body, the secrets of the Charlbury panther, and a big cat caught in a cage trap which then went missing. 

We learn about his time volunteering at a big cat sanctuary in Colorado, and hear how he links with his local police contacts. His own sightings include watching a black panther emerge with a friend, who just minutes earlier had mocked Steve’s interest in the topic.  

 Word of the week:   misidentification

25 March 2023