BY NEIL ARNOLD
(KENT BIG CAT RESEARCH)
[email protected] Big Cat Research
And so it began, like many ‘beast’ stories of before, like those ‘werewolf of the moors’ mysteries, and other ghastly, inaccurate tall tales concerning frothing, bumbling ‘monsters – and that was just the authorities and the so-called ‘trackers’!!
On Friday 8th August 2003 website Ananova reported, ‘PUMA’ SPOTTED ON ANTRIM COAST, stating:
“A puma has been spotted on the loose on the north Antrim coast. Police officers and members of the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are searching the area. It was around the seaside town of Portrush and the villages of Portballintrae and Bushmills. Inspector Milne Roundtree of Coleraine police warned the public not to approach the animal.
He said, ‘This is a large, wild cat which may have escaped from a private collection. We are currently co-ordinating a search with the USPCA to locate the animal. Anyone who sights the animal in the Portrush, Portballintrae and Bushmills area is advised not to approach it and contact police in Coleraine immediately.”
A day later and BBC News reported that the, SEARCH FOR PUMA CONTINUES, claiming that several volunteers had been laying bait for the animal which had been seen several times. Apparently, whole chickens were strewn in areas that appeared to ‘show’ where the ‘cat’ had been despite at this point no-one actually confirming the identity of the elusive predator. Stephen Philpott, obviously not an expert on large, exotic cats said the animal was either, “…a lynx or a puma escaped from a private collection”, despite the fact that for over a century large, wild cats have been sighted across Ireland, mainly due to the fact that licensing laws are extremely slack as opposed to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act introduced in England in 1976. Large cats such as Lynx, Cougar, and Black Leopard are still, to this day, housed in shoddy, dilapidated conditions across Ireland, and although not escapees are responsible for some of the populations, it is more likely in Ireland that such generations are offspring spawned from cats let go or from those that have escaped from poor facilities.
Local volunteers setting bait.
Mr. Philpott stated that, “There are at least four of these cats on the loose in northern Ireland and we have not been very successful in capturing any of them. We are very interested to see what it is and where it has come from so we can stop this trade in exotic pets which is a silly practise”.
Already confusion was arising among the press and the authorities with some claiming to know the identity of the animal despite no coverage of actual sightings, and various contradictions in the media. Quite what the authorities were doing to track down the ‘animals’ is unclear, but the flap had started, despite the fact that no-one had considered that me way simply be dealing with a felid that had been established in the area for many years!
Anyway…..BIG CAT SPOTTED IN CARRICK AREA, reported Kim Kelly for the Belfast Telegraph on August 11th!
“Police and USPCA officers are today continuing to lay bait in areas of remote countryside in an attempt to capture a puma which is on the prowl on the north Antrim coast.
Officers in Carrickfergus have now joined in the hunt (!!!) after a member of the public reported what he believed to be a lynx or puma near Beltoy Road in the town…”
(Now, just to clear a few blatantly obvious details up regarding the already confused identity of this felid. Those who may not knowledgeable regarding cat species should be told that the Puma is a very long-tailed, fawn-beige-darkish tan-coloured felid, that can measure over five-feet in length. The Eurasian Lynx is a leggy, albeit short-tailed, tufted-eared cat with a mottled coat, and those ‘authorities’ mentioned should be quite aware of these otherwise they may have well been chasing shadows!)
To continue: “…USPCA warden Davy Liggott, who is an expert on big cats, having worked at the former Causeway Safari Park, was called to the scene. He has been using his experience to help police track the animal down and has been leaving out whole chickens as bait in areas of remote farmland where he believes the animal could be hiding.”
The same day BBC NEWS reported that the WILD CAT REMAINS AT LARGE, and that the animal in question was now, to quote, “…a young puma”!
Kim Kelly of the Belfast Telegraph was back on the scene on the 12th with a report claiming that paw-prints of the creature had been found at Portrush and that police had been patrolling the beach on the look-out for the ‘big cat’.
The tracks, believed to have measured six-inches across were found in a field just outside the resort. A family from Leeke Road had seen the animal on the Sunday and described the large cat as, “…black/brown in colour and the size of an Alsatian dog”. Once again though this causes confusion. Whilst a puma silhouetted may appear black, there is no resemblance in colour between the Cougar and the Black (melanistic) Leopard, however, in build there are many comparisons. Across the UK reports of Cougar (Mountain Lion, Puma) and Black Leopard (often called Black Panthers by the press) always describe animals Labrador-dog size, muscular in the shoulder, and having long tails with an upward curve at the end. Some researchers would argue that Black Pumas exist in Britain, but as such creatures are extremely rare in their countries of origin, I will not touch on this here. However, both the Leopard and Puma are agile creatures, able to bound great leaps, and reach over five-feet in length and often standing over two-feet at the shoulder.
The most intriguing aspect of the Kim Kelly report comes in the last paragraph of her article in which she states: “A big cat has also been seen near Carrickfergus, however it is understood that it is not the same animal as the puma spotted in Portrush”.
Based on press reports, it seems that the animal in question seems to be a Puma, but could also be a Lynx, but isn’t the same animal seen elsewhere, although no other species, by August 12th, had been mentioned. It also seems bizarre that the police believe a cat has been released and that they should hunt it as an emergency, despite the fact that other authorities are admitting that cats are loose elsewhere. In fact, if such flaps were police priority then why were the ‘big cats’ of Laois, Limerick, or Tyrone treated with the same awareness many years ago ? the facts are, when the press creates a press, the public become more aware and alert of ‘big cats’ in the countryside. Not every report will be genuine, but they must all be taken seriously by the police, and in turn the press blow them up as local beastly yarns for the public to get their teeth into. With such interest generated it is then possible to monitor the movements of a particular cat as members of the public phone in to radio stations and newspapers, and more and more ‘hunts’ are organised. However, with the attention span of gnat, much of the public become fed-up by the fact that these cats aren’t just going to turn up and so silly season soon hits a dead end, enabling these wonderful animals to skulk back into the woodlands and fields out of the public eye. After such trends, which often bring out the fright brigade of binocular-wielding anoraks, wearing face-paint for supposed camouflage and calling themselves ‘beast-watchers’, reports then filter to the press very inconsistently, and end up as dribbles, until the next accidental spate of sightings. It happens all the time. Forever.
BBC News went on to report that, “…paw prints found in the north coast area of Northern Ireland were probably made by a member of the mountain lion family”, the USPCA has said. (I would love to ask the USPCA what other members of the mountain lion family there are!!)
“…there have been 17 sightings of the animal but the rough terrain has made it difficult to capture.” (Two points to note here: 1) maybe if the areas had been monitored instead of the ’17 sightings’ hardly being given a mention, then surely an area could have been determined regarding the animals prowling ground, and 2) how were these authorities going to capture an animal which they couldn’t identify, and certainly couldn’t pin-point to any kind of area ?).
Steve Philpott was obviously on the ball when he stated, “ It will pick a spot it is comfortable with, feels safe in and then we’ll never see it again. To the best of our ability and as far as we can say it is a member of the mountain lion family, most likely a Puma.” (Sorry for the sarcasm here, but once again Steve, please tell me about the rest of the Mountain Lion family!!!).
Philpott also claimed that, “…I don’t think we’ll ever get it and I can’t say it won’t pose a threat to anyone but they only come out at night ( what about the reports in the day-time Steve!!!???) but there are three other big cats in the wild in the north, one in the Castlereagh hills, one in Sion Mills and one in the Poyntzpass/Armagh area believed to be a panther.”
Okay, another few points to make here. Ask many people in Britain their definition of a ‘panther’ and they will say ‘Black Panther’, as if this is a separate species of felid, when, of course, the ‘Black Panther’ is a Black Leopard. However, across the U.S.A. the ‘panther’ is another name for the Puma, the cat believed to be roaming the Antrim coast. Mr. Philpott speaks of the ‘panther’ as a Black Leopard otherwise he quite clearly would have said Puma, but, back to the drama!
Press reports were becoming increasingly confused, with various contradictory and confused statements, such as, “…it’s a confused animal, unaware of its surroundings”, and, “…it’s being seen a lot because it doesn’t understand its freedom.” Strange statements when you consider the abundance of daytime reports of large, exotic cats across the UK each year. Indeed, there must be many confused cats out there!
On August 22nd the BBC reported, “A County Antrim shepherd whose ram is thought to have been killed by a big cat, says he fears for the safety of children in the area. Robert Calvin found the dead, 70-kilo pedigree ram at his farm on Thursday. It had major injuries and bite marks to its side. None of the other sheep in the field appeared to have suffered injuries and the attack was not thought to have been carried out by dogs. Police are investigating the incident.”
A ram, allegedly killed by a big cat.
Unfortunately, as seen in the Welsh incident during early 2003 in which a large cat allegedly ate a farmers dog, police intrusion is not always, if very rarely, of any kind of help. Marksman (with obviously nothing better to do at the time, but who wanted to be seen doing something!) were called to various hot-spots across Wales in order to hunt prowling, dog-eating felids but thankfully to no avail.
Days after the ram mauling, police and USPCA officers were called to the Cookstown area to investigate a partly devoured calf found near woodland. Was this the same animal or quite simply a case of people becoming more alert to signs of other large cats roaming Northern Ireland ?
The Ballymena Times reported, CAT-CH IT IF YOU CAN! As their main headline when Council dog-warden Nigel Devine joined the hunt for the cat stalking the Province’s North coast. Nigel commented to the paper, “We looked for the animal until 3:00 am but with no success. Turkeys have been left as bait in a four-mile radius from where the cat was first spotted in the hope it will stay in the area because there is regular food source.”
Then, shock horror, Irishnews.com claimed that a Black Leopard had now jumped on the bandwagon of beasts, believed to be roaming remote ground between Cookstown and Dungannon. Was this a case of members of the public reporting black cats as Pumas all along ? Were they ever aware that Black Leopard existed ? Probably not, and mainly due to the incorrect information given out by the press.
The Electronic Telegraph reported that paw-prints found near Bushmills were, “…either from a Cougar or Mountain Lion (spot the difference people!!!)” proving that confusion was boiling over within the flap.
It wasn’t long though before the ‘beast’ had become the hound of the Baskervilles! Kim Kelly reported of the CALL FOR SNIPER TO TRACK BIG CAT, as, “…terrified residents today demanded a police marksman is brought in to track and kill the puma (definitely a puma now then ?) blamed for ripping apart an 11-stone ram at Causeway Coast Farm.
Thousands of tourists will flock to the north coast for the bank holiday weekend and locals fear children and visitors could be at risk from the beast.
Experts know the animal, which yesterday morning ripped several pounds of flesh from a sheep’s carcass, will be forced to strike again to stay alive (forced!!? With enough rabbits, pheasants, rodents and the occasional lamb to last it a lifetime, I really don’t think children are high on the menu!).
By the this time police and other authorities obviously had no clue as to what cat they were dealing with, where it was moving or where it had even been, hence their belief in a marksman who quite simply sits holed up one night on a farm and wastes his time as a cat can smell him a mile off and move on, but hold on….there are developments, some astounding progress!
POLICE STALK BIG CAT screamed the Sky News headline on 24th August. “Police tracking a puma think they have cornered their quarry in a field (obviously long enough for the press to write and broadcast a whole sensational story on it!!). It has been spotted several times in recent days, including a sighting by a woman who said it had been prowling along a road before darting off into some fields. Stephen Philpott, from the USPCA had the job of inspecting the animal’s droppings ad confirmed it was an ‘…exotic big cat’ (not a Puma or Lynx then!!), and that it may be a kind of cross-breed (now this really is a joke!!) and is either a female or a young male (what else could it be!?)
Police say the hunt for the animal has been narrowed down to around six fields and a marksman is on hand, but have called off the search until the next sighting (sorry Mr. Marksman but large cats such as the Puma don’t live within a territory of six-fields, but hey, you guys said you had it cornered!).
Thursday 28th August, ‘BIG CAT’ STRIKES AGAIN IN NORTH ANTRIM, and Chief Inspector Mark Mason believes there may be more than one! Two police officers claimed to have seen the cat and discovered an eaten sheep in the vicinity of the sighting at Benvarden Road near Bushmills. The carcass was discovered at 7:00 am as the officers were driving home from work at the time locals believed the cat was living in Conagher Woods, whilst the Belfast Telegraph were hot on the trail of the ‘two’ big cats. NEW FEARS THERE MAY BE A PUMA AND…A PANTHER! Kim Kelly wrote on the 27th of the month. Allegedly a photographer snapped the ‘beast’ on the 26th at Ballinlea Road between Moss-side and Ballycastle. Sammy McMullan from Ballymoney was alerted to the area after reporter Lesley-Anne Henry saw the cat when she was driving home from work at Ballymoney. Ms Henry claimed, “I been out looking for the animal, I have been reading and writing endlessly about this Puma”.
As always, confusion arises, without the press even latching on. Ms. Henry saw a pure black cat, two-and-a half feet at the shoulder with a long tail as it ran out in front of her car. She was adamant it was the ‘puma’!!! She commented, “…it didn’t look like how other people described it so maybe I have seen something different. It didn’t seem to see me so I got out of my car and followed it but there were lots of bushes and I couldn’t see it. I phoned my photographer who was nearby and we drove up and down the road looking for it for about 20 minutes then it ran back across the road the way it had come. Sammy just managed to grab his camera and hot a picture of its back legs as it disappeared into the bushes. I was abit scared but more than anything I was annoyed that I had missed the deadline for my own paper, the Ballymoney Times, that had just been printed.”
Days previous a Ballymoney resident claimed she’d seen the cat sleeping in her back garden, but by this time the cat had taken on many forms, ranging from a large, tanned cat, to a small brown cat, to a big, pure black felid.
The photo of the mystery ‘cat’ was printed on Page 3 of the Belfast Telegraph dated August 27th and shows an animal disappearing into the undergrowth. However, the animal, which appears to be dark in colour, but not black, resembles a fox, and a bushy tail is evident. Although it is difficult to judge the size of the animal as photographs are often misleading, the photo does not offer any true identity and simply remains another of those blurred entities we have become accustomed to seeing over the years in the press. However, even clear photographs die a quick death in the press.
By this time the ‘beast’ had been sighted over thirty times, with Mr. Steve Philpott calling it, “…an amateur”, in the way it killed, as it was, “…used to having its food on a plate”, which is almost a way of conceding that the animal had been released/escaped from a private collection.
Panic gripped the Kilmoyle Primary School at Ballybogey when on the 1st September internet sources spoke of the SCHOOL ON ALERT AFTER SIGHTINGS OF BIG CAT, after a sheep carcass was found in a field not far from the 100-pupil strong primary school. The North Eastern Education and Library Board stated that it expected principals and parents to take sensible precautions but that there was no need to consider closing the schools. Principal Caroline Carr commented, “We will liase with parents and keep the situation under constant review but if we think there is danger to children at all we will keep them in the school at all times. If it hasn’t been seen in the area again by Monday we will let them outside but make sure they are supervised at all times.”
Things took on a brief, and rather quirky twist around the same time when a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig was blamed for several attacks on livestock!
The Belfast Telegraph churned out one of the most hilarious articles pertaining to the now folkloric beast, when, on 30th August Kim Kelly wrote, under the heading, WLL KILLER CAT TURN ON HUMANS ?
“If all reports are to be believed people are now looking for a light brown, black, large cat, which looks like an Alsatian dog or maybe a fox, is between one and five feet high, and has a bushy tail and staring eyes. The beast can apparently jump five-foot fences, climb trees, swim rivers and has an unrivalled knowledge of the north west, having been spotted at Portrush, Bushmills, Ballymoney, Cushendall and Cookstown”(And this is where werewolves are born from!!)
Army patrols, RAF spotter planes, 24-hour farmer surveillance, including landowner Brian Wotton, who claimed to see a small, sandy-coloured cat, could not flush out the mystery cat which now had become nothing more than a suspected escapee, when the USPCA urged the owner of the cat to, “…get in touch.”
Allegedly, police saw the cat one night with night vision equipment but before they could act the animal was disturbed by a car-load of ‘cat trackers’ attempting to film the felid, and various ‘big game’ hunters (in other words, trigger-happy nerds with too much deodorant on making too much noise) had also been warned to steer clear of areas where the cat had been sighted to avoid intrusions upon police procedures.
A Catherine Henderson then saw the not so elusive cat on Colyfin Road with her daughter during mid-September. She was driving home from work with her daughter at 5:45 pm when a big black cat ran across the road. Catherine’s husband was also in the car, and so they pulled over, got out of the vehicle and looked across the field where the animal had ran. The cat was standing in the field looking at the startled family before it made off. They all described the animal later as being dark grey with a long, curving tail. They phoned the police and two officers turned up but their search was fruitless. They were armed with shotguns and told the family that they would shoot the animal dead if they saw it.
Ananova, 24th September: TRACKERS CLOSE IN ON BEAST OF BALLYBOGEY.
“Police say the net is closing in on a big cat running wild on Ulster’s coast. Police and animal welfare chiefs said they had narrowed the 150 square mile search down to a wooded area near the village of Ballybogey (even though a few weeks ago they’d narrowed the search down to a few fields somewhere else!!) outside Portrush, Co. Antrim. The ‘big cat’, thought to be a Puma or Panther ( here we go again!) has been blamed for mauling several sheep after being set loose by a rogue owner who faces prosecution once it is caught.”
Under the heading, HUNT FOR BIG CAT TAKES TO THE AIR, for the Belfast Telegraph, Kim Kelly wrote that,:
“USPCA experts armed with tranquilliser guns joined PSNI officers in the biggest hunt to date to track the killer puma which has mauled livestock and terrorised the north Antrim farming community (despite the fact it is meant to kill to eat and hadn’t terrorised a single person with most sightings being from vehicles or at a distance!). The puma is thought to have escaped from a private collector who has as yet not come forward to claim ownership of the animal. Today’s search is focusing on a ten-mile area between Ballycastle and Coleraine where the wild cat has been spotted on numerous occasions. The USPCA is confident that the beast will be caught today and experts have been monitoring its behaviour patterns in an attempt to capture it before it kills again. It is understood that the last known sighting of the animal was at approximately 7:00 pm on Monday evening when it was seen stalking cattle near Ballybogey. The elusive animal, which has killed four times (only four times! That must be one hungry cat!) appears to have been keeping a low profile in recent weeks (which is unusual behaviour for one of the most elusive animals on earth!!) and no further killings have been reported to police (but what about all the rabbit murders? This cat is a real serial killer!).
On the 25th of September the U.TV newsroom reported on the net that, NI AUTHORITIES RECOVER 16 WILD CATS, as the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals revealed they were looking after six tigers, a lion, and Leopard recovered from a bungalow in Omagh during 1997 as well as eight other large cats.
Search teams out in the countryside looking for the ‘beasts’ of Ballybogey were given briefing notes which outlined possible outcomes and conclusions for the ‘beasts’, these four being that:
- The animal could starve to death (despite the thousands of sheep as well as smaller prey around.
- It could be caught in a trap, although this rarely occurs.
- It could be tranquillised and then recaptured, despite the fact no marksman at any point had any kind of cat in their sights.
- It could be shot dead by a police marksman…I doubt!
Rather bizarrely at this point it seemed that the police really believed they could corner an elusive, agile and adaptable creature that could well have a territory of up to seventy-square miles or more, and often hunts at night! They really believed that by scouring locations hours, or even days after the last sighting, they could narrow its territory down to just a few fields, but it seemed as though they just wanted to appear as though they were doing something positive when in fact they didn’t have a clue. The BBC website reported that, “…a leading animal charity has said that not one, but two wild cats are roaming north Antrim’s coastline. The USPCA said a black panther was living near the village of Ballybogey, outside Portrush, and a brown-coloured puma was roaming the hills near Ballycastle. The claim was made as a dawn to dusk operation by the USPCA members and police officers on Wednesday to catch the wild cat drew to a close. The USPCA said both animals were released near Bushmills in July.
Reported sightings by members of the public showed discrepancies in the colour of the animal seen. However, the charity said it played down the differences, lest the public became concerned about two wild cats on the loose. The USPCA is now withdrawing from efforts to track the cats, saying they will melt away into the background. However, police said they would continue to investigate sightings of both animals”
The Belfast Telegraph reported, WILD BEASTS ‘WERE FREED DELIBERATELY’. Kim Kelly reported that, “…the puma and the panther, wearing a silver collar have now made their home between Bushmills and Ballycastle.”
And apparently, “…a helicopter swooped on the beast and police marksmen stalked across fields with guns after they were alerted by a member of the public. Varying reports from the helicopter crew indicate that the black beast was within their sights, however, another USPCA member said the ‘beast’ may have been a Labrador dog”.
On the 29th September the Telegraph reported that hunters, armed with guns had been tracking the cats which had been on the loose for seven weeks. Stephen Philpott commented, “…we are saddened to learn that groups of men with lights and dogs and doubtless guns were seen entering woodland at night and disturbing and damaging the environment.”
The newspaper also reported that, “…over the weekend the puma was spotted close to a hen house at a farm near Dervock, whilst other reports indicate that the cats have been spotted roaming housing estates in Bushmills.”
However, the best evidence yet to support the theory that a Cougar (Puma, Mountain Lion) was on the loose came on the 30th September when the Belfast Telegraph reported, NEW IRISH BIG CAT PICTURE, and spoke of the cat photographed that, “…moved like a hunter” and was, “…bigger than a collie”.
Photograph taken by Dr. Brendan O’Donnell
Ashleigh Wallace reported, “…the dramatic picture which provides the strongest evidence yet that another puma-like cat is on the prowl in Northern Ireland – this time in the heart of the Co. Down countryside.” (However, due to lack of consistent reports it is difficult to say whether the Antrim cat was indeed the County Down cat, because, as mentioned previous, large cats have been seen around County Down for many years.)
The cat was snapped by Doctor Brendan O’Donnell who was with his wife when he saw the animal in July 2003 near to Slieve Bearnagh in the Mourne Mountains. The newspaper reported that the animal was, “….a large, black, puma-like cat prowling in a field”, however the photograph clearly shows a dark tanned Cougar striding through the long-grass. The animal is certainly not a domestic cat. Mr O’Donnell told the paper that, “…it was unbelievable, it was completely different to a domestic cat in the way it moved, which to me was like a hunter and the long tail was incredibly distinctive.”
However, whilst the photo appears to stand as conclusive proof that a Puma is at large, the newspaper reported that, “…this new evidence that a large black cat is roaming close to the Mourne Mountains comes as the two wild animals still at loose in north Antrim continue to evade capture”, and then to confuse issues more the paper goes on to report that, “…following the interest stirred by sightings of two big cats currently roaming the north Antrim coast and the sighting of a lynx-like creature in Sion Mills, the USPCA’s chief executive Stephen Philpot revealed earlier this year that, ‘…we have four big cats on the loose in Northern Ireland that we have had regular reports on over the years.”
However, vague reports of ‘black pumas’, ‘lynx-like’ cats and other hazy felids certainly does not paint an ideal picture of the established species roaming Ireland’s scenic countryside. If the press and the authorities had taken the reports seriously long ago then some kind of outline of territory, population etc, could have been determined. The facts are, nobody can tell if these cats have been recently released, as reports of cats with collars remain inconsistent, and the public as well as the press have yet to decipher the difference in species of wild cat.
As of late Autumn 2003 the press reports of the Antrim ‘beast’ have died down, and in typical fashion most ‘researchers’ have given up the ghost as such simply because the cat will not come to them. Unfortunately, hunters and researchers are sometimes not all too different, as both parties want their own reward, and whilst the researchers antics may not be harmful to the animals in question, they simply want their name in the newspapers, in the same way hunters want to cats in their trophy cabinets.
The Antrim cats may well have been released into the wilds during July 2003, but they could also have been in the area for many years. There are so many cats roaming the United Kingdom and each of these animals may well be offspring from generations that have lurked in the rural shadows for centuries, but flaps are always created when the press jump on the bandwagon, create their local ‘beast’ tale and all hell breaks loose. Large cats such as Black Leopard and Puma have prowled onto housing estates during late hours for many years, this is nothing new. Marksmen have allegedly come so close to shooting cats from Bodmin to the remote valleys in Wales, but the regurgitations are always the same and so is the confusion. The public becomes more aware during these silly flaps, and whilst this means more cats may be seen, there will also be hysteria, misinterpretation and always someone who likes to get their mug in the newspaper, just so they can call themselves the ‘beast hunter’ or the ‘tracker’ when the reality is they are just as dangerous to these animals as the press, the police and hunters. These cats always melt away. Only a minute fraction are ever captured, hit by cars or found dead, and a minute fraction of the public will some day be attacked by a hungry Cougar or angry Leopard, but that’s life and it has come to this through the ignorance and the confusion caused over the years by the sort of people who have played a major part in the drama of this story, and it repeats itself time and time again.
There are many, many large cats at large across Ireland and populations will continue to explode even when the law on keeping such ‘pets’ becomes tighter. There is nothing anyone can do, and there is no-one out there able to do it. When we do not understand these creatures we call them ‘phantom panthers’., when we cannot find them we call them a myth and yet there are many different species across the UK inhabiting the remote woodlands, dense forests and overgrown valleys, and there are more than people realise. The main problem is with us humans is that we cannot deal with the fact that we are being out-foxed as such by an intelligent creature, a creature able to hunt in pitch darkness, a creature able to climb trees, to leap great heights and to almost disappear from view, which is why across the world such felids are known as ‘shadow cats’ and ‘silver ghosts’. However, it also helps when the people looking for these beautiful creatures are stupid.