Forest of Dean Big Cats

Is The Forest of Dean A Big Cat Hideout?

If you live in the Forest of Dean area, the next time you open your back door to call out for Tiddles, there is just the small possibility that a cat much larger than your domestic moggy, may respond to you instead! This is because it is now becoming more and more widely believed that there are large cats stalking the area. Sightings of these elusive felines are increasing in numbers and Gloucestershire Police are now thought to be recording around 100 sightings every year.

To be honest, cards on the table, this hub was inspired by my partner and I seeing a big cat yesterday from our living room window. And not one of the ones owned by the lady opposite, either. This was a BIG cat. About 1.5 times the size of our chunky Border Collie. So I started to take a closer look at the local rumours.

Do Cats Dream of Being Bigger?

(c) pisces 40 at Flickr.com
(c) pisces 40 at Flickr.com

Do The Authorities Know More Than They Let On About Forest of Dean Big Cats?

There is concern that the authorities are attempting to cover up a lot of this information at present. Both the Police and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) are accused of covering up more conclusive evidence that would establish the fact that the Forest is populated by big cats. If this is the case, incidents in the past, such as a man being attacked by a big cat in his front garden a couple of years ago and parents subsequently keeping their children off schools for days after, may have something to do with it.


Some new information has recently been discovered, however. It was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and it relates to two official sightings through the Forestry Commission. Both sightings occurred during deer censuses, the first in February 2002 and the other in March 2005. The sightings involved quite definite encounters with large cats, which were picked up through the visual equipment that was used during the hours of darkness each time. Both incidents occurred in two separate parts of the Forest of Dean.

Bigger than this... way, way bigger than this

Where Would The Big Cats Have Come From?

The short answer to this question is that nobody knows where the big cats would have come from, if indeed, they do exist. Theories are only ever speculative and one idea is that they may be relics from the time when Eurasian Lynxes were known to have existed in the country. Perhaps the big cats have managed to cling on to their survival in a clever and very undercover existence? There are many theories about British Big Cats.

Another theory is that they have been purposefully released into the wild. When you consider the fact that there are some animal rights organisations which openly admit to keeping lynxes to be released into the wilds of our country, this is not such a bizarre concept. Animals that may have been released many years ago may have their numbers topped-up by further continual releases.

When you look at how the Forest of Dean wild boar has managed to re-establish itself back into the Forest, this places this idea into some context. When considering this and the fact that all felines are naturally elusive, this certainly starts to make some sense.

A "Tomorrow's World" UK TV programme decades ago went out and did some fieldwork. They found out that some of the big black cats are hybrids between wildcats and domestic cats: they caught one and did a DNA analysis on it. The hybrids are bigger than either species. They postulated that these big cats originated when all the young men who would have become gamekeepers went off to fight in the World War I and never came back again. Wildcats proliferated and interbred with domestic moggies. The funny thing is that not many of the stories I have read subsequently of big cat sightings ever mention this discovery. Now why is that?

Image (c) Masons News Service
Image (c) Masons News Service

Recent Big Cat Sightings in the Forest of Dean

Sightings are becoming more common in and around the Forest of Deanarea and some of them appear to be encroaching closer and closer to more urban areas. In August 2008, for example, a person out walking in the Cinderford area spotted a big cat chasing a deer.

There was also another sighting by two school boys, around the same area, who have claimed that they came across a big cat near to some undergrowth, which led to them both fleeing for their lives in fear.

On 29 January 09 my partner and I watched a VERY large black cat on the edge of the treeline moseying back and forth on the edge of a field of Llamas (oh yes we have it all here in the Forest, you wouldn't believe the wildlife around here!). Binoculars were swiftly retrieved from the spare room and what can I say, it was a VERY large cat. Compared to one of our border collies had they been the same distance away in the edge of the treeline, I'd say it was 1.5 times the size of them. That's WAY too big to be a domestic cat no matter how overfed he was.

British Alien Big Cats

Whatever your beliefs on this matter, you may want to bear in mind that not everyone who has claimed to see one of these big cats, can be wrong (I know what WE saw). The sightings are not restricted to the Forest of Dean area either. There are even more sightings recorded annually in the Yorkshire and Devon areas, for example, and these have been reported for many decades now. With the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, there seemed to be a marked increase in the number of big cats reported after this law came into force.

We already know that wild cats exist in Scotland and that lynxes definitely roamed through the Forest in the past. Who is to say that they have not managed to find some opportunistic niche back into our wilds? After all, it’s happened with the wild boar in the Forest of Dean.

So, with all of this in mind, it might make you think twice about letting little Tiddles out for his nocturnal rummage in the garden tonight.

This one is in Detroit Zoo!

(c) SubuRex at Flickr.com
(c) SubuRex at Flickr.com

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