An in-depth discussion on the panthers and pumas reported across Australia with author and researcher Simon Townsend from Victoria.
Simon explains why he feels the Australian panthers match black leopards and are not outsize feral cats. Tawny coloured cats resembling pumas are also reported, which Simon includes in his accounts of witness reports. The discussion ranges over the origins of these cats, the likely prey carcasses which Simon examines, and attitudes of remote communities. Documentary makers are now on the case with Simon, revealing another side to the Australian Bush.
Words of the week: Macropod , Marsupial lion
31 October 2019
We discuss how big cats use heathland as their territory with Jonathan McGowan, and hear about two of his encounters in Dorset and the New Forest. He scouts out suspected prey remains of deer in these areas, looking for tell-tale tooth marks on the bones.
We then hear from Dr Andrew Hemmings in the lab at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. After receiving these skeletal remains from Jonathan and others, students gauge the tooth marks to identify those which match the scale and pattern of puma and leopard carnassial teeth. Andrew discusses how tooth-pit analysis can contribute to the evidence base for big cats in Britain.
Words of the week: Citizen science
16 October 2019
Matt Everett describes holding the gaze of a black leopard after he confronted the animal from his car on a sunken Somerset lane. The incident inspired him to create the forthcoming documentary Britain’s Big Cat Mystery. We hear some of the highlights and challenges from making the production. Our second guest Paul explains his sighting of a black panther in deepest Dorset and the reaction of his dogs on rushing back to the scene. Paul explains how you become more immersed in nature when searching for signs of big cats.
Word of the week: Stealth
3 October 2019
An in-depth interview with Nigel Spencer reveals how he and his late father supported police follow-up work on big cat reports in Leicestershire & Rutland. Nigel recounts his own sighting of a puma in Essex and summarises key big cat incidents from Leicestershire including from farms, quarries, stables and gardens. Our second guest Emma from Leicestershire explains how she is now extra-cautious when walking in the countryside after retreating from the scene of a panther consuming a rabbit or hare in fields close to her house.
Words of the Week: The Recorder Effect
22 September 2019
If you thought Buckinghamshire and the Chilterns was a tame area of countryside close to London, maybe think again…
We hear from Darren who kept close watch of his dog when he realised a young puma was nearby in scrubby land by an airfield – he felt the mother could be close by. Darren is a councillor and discusses the pros and cons of acknowledging the presence of big cats. We then discuss the recent history of big cat sightings in the Chilterns with Paulo. He grew up in North London but was inspired to learn about Chilterns big cats by his teacher who claimed to have seen some. Paulo takes us through highlights of recent reports, discusses what we can learn from the leopards of Mumbai, and reveals how he accidently called up a leopard through the sound of his chainsaw.
Word of the week: Varmint
8 September 2019
Our two different guests explain the challenges of sheep farming when a big cat makes a visit. Gordon ran a small sheep enterprise when he was based in south Wales. A silent predator would sometimes take one of his ewes (also called yowes) or a tup (young male). Gordon explains how he made adjustments to life on the farm as he realised a large cat was making occasional visits. Our second guest Jean runs a croft in North Scotland. At certain times she and especially her neighbour lose yowes to a large predator on their crofting land – they feel they are experiencing a rogue big cat, and a black panther gets reported in the area…
Word(s) of the week: Obligate carnivore
1 September 2019
Gloucestershire’s Frank Tunbridge recounts his own close-up encounter with a big cat in the Cotswolds – he watched it snatch some rabbit bait at dusk and it later crept behind and gave him a warning growl. Frank then discusses the stealth of cats like leopards and pumas and refers to the writings of Jim Corbett who tracked leopards and tigers in India last century.
We hear highlights from some of the witness reports Frank receives, and the questions these beg… Are the big cats here sometimes targeting domestic cats? And are some of the panthers seen in Britain assumed to be black leopards but possibly something else…?
Word of the week: Digitigrade
1 September 2019
We hear snippets from big cat witnesses in and around Exmoor as we visit Exmoor Zoo and the North Devon Show. A zoo keeper explains her encounter with a wild puma, while a retired butcher describes his view of two panthers isolating their prey in a flock of sheep several years back in Exmoor. We speak to Endymion and pay tribute to the late Trevor Beer, the naturalist and writer who researched big cats in Devon, and we hear from Alex who had a brush with a panther on the high moors. The Exmoor Beast lives on…
Word(s) of the week: Confirmation bias
We hear from Coryn near Stroud in Gloucestershire who explains her several sightings of a black panther across the valley from her house. She managed to film some snippets of the cat and she explains how it was scaled. Find out what happened when she later saw the same or a different black panther much closer.
We also speak to Dave, 20 miles away, who was out lamping one night when he noticed an animal watching him from the other side of the field. As he moved closer and checked its eye shine he started to realise it wasn’t the fox he’d assumed…
Word of the week: Preternatural
Most witnesses of big cats in Britain claim to see one cat. This would match the fact that most species of wild cat are mainly solitary in their lifestyles. In this episode each of our guests watched two cats together. We meet Di who watched a mother and cub black panther as she walked in her local Somerset countryside, and then we hear from John who came close to two adult pumas (also called cougars and mountain lions) as he cycled to work down a back lane early one morning in Gloucestershire.
Word of the week: Crepuscular (and Dimpsey)