Prowling ‘big cat’ is more likely to be a domestic pet, expert claims

A big cat expert has rubbished reports that a predator is prowling a nature reserve near Castleford. Photo: John Pearson
A big cat expert has rubbished reports that a predator is prowling a nature reserve near Castleford. Photo: John Pearson

A big cat expert has rubbished reports that a predator is prowling a nature reserve near Castleford.

Last month an amateur photographer snapped what looked like a large feline in the distance at St Aidan’s at Allerton Bywater, while taking sun rise photos.

It sparked a debate with some agreeing that it could be a big cat, while others said it was simply a domestic animal. Some even claimed it could be a small horse.

Danny Bemping, who runs Big Cat Society in Devon, has since studied the picture and says it is likely to be a domestic animal, possibly even a Maine Coon - the largest type of domestic cat.

He told the Express: “It looks like it’s wearing a collar and there’s no sense of scale - you’d need to measure the tree (next to the animal).

“It’s definitely feline, it could be a Maine Coon or a hybrid Bengal leopard cat - you don’t need a licence for them.

“They can be the size of a medium-sized dog.

“It’s definitely not a big cat. Scientifically it’s only a big cat if it roars, so that’s a lion, tiger, leopard of jaguar, and it’s none of those.”

Mr Bemping says he is sent around 20 photographs a weeks from potential big cat sightings, and while many are debunked, he believes there are big cats living in the countryside.

He says many were kept as exotic pets but following the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in the 1970s, in which they were prohibited from keeping without a licence, many were simply ‘let out’ into the countryside.