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EP:112 The policeman, the prints & the calling leopard

Our first guest Richard recounts a sudden episode of big cat reports from his time as a local police officer in Wiltshire. One of the cases involved a threatened domestic cat.

In the second part we catch up with tracker and wildlife guide Mark Graves who was first on ep 95. He explains why some photographed footprints and plaster casts are evidence for big cats in Scotland and in Dorset, and he discusses a call which matches a leopard vocalisation, recorded recently in a Devon woodland.  

We also reflect on a recent press report of a camper experiencing a black panther advancing towards him in a Derbyshire campsite. Mark gives feedback after speaking with the witness. 

Finally, Mark and Rick consider how distinct the British big cats may be, tuned as they are to the UK environment.  

 Words of the week:   character release

3 July 2024

EP:111 Cat at the campsite, panther at the portaloo

We hear from Andy and from Gail, the different witnesses mentioned by Nick on his farm in episode 109. Andy and Gail speak about their own various big cat incidents during their farm visits, and they have each had one close up account… 

Andy confronted a large black “panther-leopard” one evening at the barns. Gail was on her way to the campsite portaloo when she watched a big black cat sitting in the early morning sun.

The cat-like footprint photographed by Nick for episode 109 (BCC website, Refs & Links page) may match the scale of the cat described by Gail. 

Word of the week:   coexistence   

8 June 2024

EP:110 Panthera Cumbria – DNA developments

In this Cumbria update we discuss new DNA evidence with Sharon Larkin-Snowden following her input to episode 101. 

In October 2023 Sharon found a freshly consumed sheep carcass. Without realising, she also disturbed a big black cat at the scene. Later she swabbed the carcass for any saliva present, for a lab test. She and Rick discuss the DNA result which came back from the University of Warwick  

Sharon and her husband Ian describe their further investigations, including their use of a drone and thermal camera, and the family’s savannah cats provide some background sound effects. 

Our second-half guest is Diane from near Wigan in Lancashire. She has twice witnessed what she believes is a black leopard when dog walking. Diane was interviewed on Sky TV’s Hold the Front Page at the podcast’s big cat stand last September in Cumbria. She and Rick discuss their experience of working with TV comedians to help mainstream the topic of British big cats.  

 Words of the week:   forensic swabbing    

 14 May 2024

EP:109 The changing farm – new woods & new predators

Nick runs a farm in the English midlands which is now transforming to wildlife friendly woods and meadows.  Amongst the farm’s wildlife are sightings and signs of big cats. 

Nick recounts people’s big cat encounters in the area and he describes the suspicious prints and the potential big cat lay-up spot found on his farm. 

He runs the farm in the knowledge that big cats have become part of the local wildlife, using the network of woods and the new wildlife habitats he helps to establish.  He feels the cats feast on rabbits and will help keep the deer skittish, which will prevent over-browsing of the younger trees and emerging woodland.   

 Words of the week:   Lay-up spots   

 19 April 2024

EP:108 Dusk in the park – meeting the curious panther

Eliza and two of her Cubs group friends came close to a black panther “with ears like a teddy bear” in their local Country Park in Spring 2023.  The location is a big greenspace, busy in the daytime with families and visitors on the edge of town, adding to the shock and surprise felt by Eliza and friends.  

Eliza and her mum Sarah join us to discuss the difficulties of young people being believed when they report a big cat. Sarah and Rick consider the challenge of awareness raising on big cats, especially for adults supervising young people on outdoor activities.

Words of the week:   tail talk

26 March 2024

EP:107 Fishing fright – the lakeside leopard warning

Wayne is an angler in Essex. He describes 3 close encounters with big cats at fishing lakes. On one occasion he met with a leopard warning him off just meters away on a lakeside path. The nearby muntjac deer might owe its life to Wayne’s presence, as he stumbled upon the scene between the cat and the deer. He got close enough to see the big cat’s markings… 

Words of the week:   leopard popcorn smell   

5 March 2024

EP:106 Forest vibes – Argyll’s big cat calls

Janet is based in a remote corner of Argyll. She was unaware of the area’s long history of big cat reports until events kicked off close to her house in 2023. She explains the warning calls and the sightings she experienced locally and coincidentally when visiting Aberdeenshire. 

Janet is a professional photographer and explains how she is adapting her range of camera kit in preparation for big cats, especially in darkness and low light.  

 Word of the week:   guttural

 9 February 2024

EP:105 Top corner cats – tracking the Caithness leopards

We hear from Paul, an investigator near John O’Groats in north-east Scotland.  He re-tells several big cat sighting reports from recent years, and he explains his use of trail cams, night vision cameras, and lures.    

Last summer he followed up a local black leopard report, then found himself in a dense woodland with a growling cat just a few feet away. The scary incident took a twist later that night… 

Words of the week:   nape bite

17 January 2024

EP:104 Sherwood & Shropshire – glimpses in the Greenwood

Adam’s Grandfather’s once had a big cat sighting in Sherwood Forest and now, decades later, Adam has just experienced a large black cat in the same area – we hear the details in this episode.

Adam also discusses several big cat encounters he’s heard of from friends and contacts in Nottinghamshire and Shropshire, as well as some perfect footage of a puma he was shown. As an ecologist he meets people in remote parts of the English midlands who are in prime positions to witness wildlife. He also considers the niche available for big cats in the British landscape, and he explains how a lifetime of observing wildlife can bring the odd surprise. 

More notes for the episode at:

Words of the week:   niche   &   vigil

27 December 2023

EP:103 The spectre at the stables – big cats bothering horses

We hear Sue’s experience after 10 years’ worth of big cat sightings and incidents around her stables in Essex.

Her daughter and sons have had close sightings, and in one of Sue’s encounters she was next to a black panther in the stable yard at dusk.

Sue describes some severe impacts on two of the horses after close confrontations with a big cat, and she explains the ongoing extra costs she is faced with in feed and vets’ bills, managing the stables alongside the varying visits of big cats. 

Words of the week:   foxlights  predator deterrent

11 December 2023