Big cats are on the prowl in Oxfordshire, says expert

Pc Simon Towers, Oxfordshire’s wildlife crime officer

Pc Simon Towers, Oxfordshire’s wildlife crime officer

First published in News Banbury Cake: Photograph of the Author by

THOSE who claim to have seen a big cat prowling around the county have at times been ridiculed – but there is one wildlife expert who believes them.

Pc Simon Towers, wildlife crime officer for Thames Valley Police, yesterday said he was convinced some of the big cat sightings were true.

In fact he believes he’s spotted one.

Pc Towers said: “I know a lot of people are sceptical but there are too many reports for it not to be true.

“We’ve found footprints and I think I’ve seen the tail end of it.

“It’s thought to be a big puma that comes here every winter.”

Mr Towers said the majority of the sightings of the county’s visitor came from West Oxfordshire and around Charlbury in particular.

He said: “In 1976, the government passed the Dangerous Animals Act which stopped people from keeping tigers and lions at home.

“And so many of them went missing or were released into the wild.

“It is totally feasible that there is a big cat population in the countryside.

“And we have a few zoos and animal parks in Oxfordshire, so that could be what is attracting them.”

Mark Fraser, chairman of the Big Cats in Britain Society, said the idea was certainly feasible.

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He added: “Obviously we need hard evidence to back it up, but we have one or two sightings of big cats every day in the UK.

“Many of these are mistakes, but a large number cannot be explained and come from reliable sources like zoologists or police officers.

“There has always been a lot of money in the trade of exotic animals, so it would not be surprising if these animals are in the wild.”

Mr Towers has been the chief wildlife officer for the area for 12 years and deals with all kinds of animal crime – from rogue taxidermists to exotic species.

A major problem facing police at the moment is hare coursing, which Mr Towers said was common in Oxfordshire.

Hare coursing is when dogs are let loose to chase wild hares, and bets are made on which dog will kill the animal first.

Mr Towers said: “This is a big problem in Oxfordshire, with people coming from as far afield as South Wales.

“But it is cruel and we rely on the public to let us know so we can catch these people.”

In 2010, 10 people have been convicted of hare coursing in Oxfordshire, receiving fines of up to £5,000 and having their vehicles and dogs seized.

Mr Towers said: “People don’t realise the police deal with animal crime, but we are the main prosecutor in the UK. I urge people to get in touch and we can act on their information to stamp out cruelty in Oxfordshire.”

Have you seen the big cat in Oxfordshire? If so, call Rhianne Pope on 01865 425411.

Comments (11)

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10:12am Fri 10 Sep 10

Rich! says...

I heard it's got four ears. Two of them are for listening and the other two are kind of back-up ears, and it's claws are as big as cups and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps...
I heard it's got four ears. Two of them are for listening and the other two are kind of back-up ears, and it's claws are as big as cups and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps... Rich!
  • Score: 0

3:04pm Fri 10 Sep 10

AROUND THE CORNER ON THE 45 says...

Puuuurfect just before I set off for a stroll
Puuuurfect just before I set off for a stroll AROUND THE CORNER ON THE 45
  • Score: 0

4:11pm Fri 10 Sep 10

JuliaM says...

“We’ve found footprints and I think I’ve seen the tail end of it."

Well, that's going to make for interesting cross-examination isn't it?

'So, you claim to have seen my client commuting this crime, officer?'

'That's right.'

'Yet you ALSO claim to have seen a big cat loose in the country. What are we to assume about your powers of observation?'

'...'

'Err...'
“We’ve found footprints and I think I’ve seen the tail end of it." Well, that's going to make for interesting cross-examination isn't it? 'So, you claim to have seen my client commuting this crime, officer?' 'That's right.' 'Yet you ALSO claim to have seen a big cat loose in the country. What are we to assume about your powers of observation?' '...' 'Err...' JuliaM
  • Score: 0

4:15pm Fri 10 Sep 10

slink says...

i think he's definitely lion, sorry lying.
i think he's definitely lion, sorry lying. slink
  • Score: 0

4:51pm Fri 10 Sep 10

terrytowel says...

I am regularly on the look out for cougars in Oxford.
Yummy.
I am regularly on the look out for cougars in Oxford. Yummy. terrytowel
  • Score: 0

4:53pm Fri 10 Sep 10

jf says...

slink wrote:
i think he's definitely lion, sorry lying.
lol- you may all mock.

But there is something.

I was out on a pheasant shoot a few years ago. I was on what is called "stopping off" in a gateway and I noticed approx 100 ft from me(out of the corner of my eye) what I thought was a Black Lab at first. come out by one of the hedgerows.
I thought it had broken away from the rest of the shooting party.
When I looked full on- I noticed it was much too slim for a Lab. It was much more sleekier and had a long swishing tail.
It was gone in seconds into the woods.

I doubled checked with the party if one of the dogs may of gotten loose later-but none had.

I am convinced to this day-it was a Puma or Panther.

No one on here will convince me otherwise!
[quote][p][bold]slink[/bold] wrote: i think he's definitely lion, sorry lying.[/p][/quote]lol- you may all mock. But there is something. I was out on a pheasant shoot a few years ago. I was on what is called "stopping off" in a gateway and I noticed approx 100 ft from me(out of the corner of my eye) what I thought was a Black Lab at first. come out by one of the hedgerows. I thought it had broken away from the rest of the shooting party. When I looked full on- I noticed it was much too slim for a Lab. It was much more sleekier and had a long swishing tail. It was gone in seconds into the woods. I doubled checked with the party if one of the dogs may of gotten loose later-but none had. I am convinced to this day-it was a Puma or Panther. No one on here will convince me otherwise! jf
  • Score: 0

8:41pm Fri 10 Sep 10

GRB says...

I believe there maybe one or two big cats loose around the country but no where near as many as these numerous sightings give the impression of. If there were more I think one would have probably been killed on the roads/train tracks etc by now.
I believe there maybe one or two big cats loose around the country but no where near as many as these numerous sightings give the impression of. If there were more I think one would have probably been killed on the roads/train tracks etc by now. GRB
  • Score: 0

6:41am Sat 11 Sep 10

JuliaM says...

jf wrote:
slink wrote:
i think he's definitely lion, sorry lying.
lol- you may all mock.

But there is something.

I was out on a pheasant shoot a few years ago. I was on what is called "stopping off" in a gateway and I noticed approx 100 ft from me(out of the corner of my eye) what I thought was a Black Lab at first. come out by one of the hedgerows.
I thought it had broken away from the rest of the shooting party.
When I looked full on- I noticed it was much too slim for a Lab. It was much more sleekier and had a long swishing tail.
It was gone in seconds into the woods.

I doubled checked with the party if one of the dogs may of gotten loose later-but none had.

I am convinced to this day-it was a Puma or Panther.

No one on here will convince me otherwise!
If it was black, it can only have been a panther (leopard). Melanistic pumas are almost entirely unknown, and no authenticated record of one exists.
[quote][p][bold]jf[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]slink[/bold] wrote: i think he's definitely lion, sorry lying.[/p][/quote]lol- you may all mock. But there is something. I was out on a pheasant shoot a few years ago. I was on what is called "stopping off" in a gateway and I noticed approx 100 ft from me(out of the corner of my eye) what I thought was a Black Lab at first. come out by one of the hedgerows. I thought it had broken away from the rest of the shooting party. When I looked full on- I noticed it was much too slim for a Lab. It was much more sleekier and had a long swishing tail. It was gone in seconds into the woods. I doubled checked with the party if one of the dogs may of gotten loose later-but none had. I am convinced to this day-it was a Puma or Panther. No one on here will convince me otherwise![/p][/quote]If it was black, it can only have been a panther (leopard). Melanistic pumas are almost entirely unknown, and no authenticated record of one exists. JuliaM
  • Score: 0

9:31am Sat 11 Sep 10

jf says...

JuliaM wrote:
jf wrote:
slink wrote:
i think he's definitely lion, sorry lying.
lol- you may all mock.

But there is something.

I was out on a pheasant shoot a few years ago. I was on what is called "stopping off" in a gateway and I noticed approx 100 ft from me(out of the corner of my eye) what I thought was a Black Lab at first. come out by one of the hedgerows.
I thought it had broken away from the rest of the shooting party.
When I looked full on- I noticed it was much too slim for a Lab. It was much more sleekier and had a long swishing tail.
It was gone in seconds into the woods.

I doubled checked with the party if one of the dogs may of gotten loose later-but none had.

I am convinced to this day-it was a Puma or Panther.

No one on here will convince me otherwise!
If it was black, it can only have been a panther (leopard). Melanistic pumas are almost entirely unknown, and no authenticated record of one exists.
you maybe right Julia.

It was a large black cat of some kind.
[quote][p][bold]JuliaM[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]jf[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]slink[/bold] wrote: i think he's definitely lion, sorry lying.[/p][/quote]lol- you may all mock. But there is something. I was out on a pheasant shoot a few years ago. I was on what is called "stopping off" in a gateway and I noticed approx 100 ft from me(out of the corner of my eye) what I thought was a Black Lab at first. come out by one of the hedgerows. I thought it had broken away from the rest of the shooting party. When I looked full on- I noticed it was much too slim for a Lab. It was much more sleekier and had a long swishing tail. It was gone in seconds into the woods. I doubled checked with the party if one of the dogs may of gotten loose later-but none had. I am convinced to this day-it was a Puma or Panther. No one on here will convince me otherwise![/p][/quote]If it was black, it can only have been a panther (leopard). Melanistic pumas are almost entirely unknown, and no authenticated record of one exists.[/p][/quote]you maybe right Julia. It was a large black cat of some kind. jf
  • Score: 0

3:25pm Tue 14 Sep 10

Steps TDCR says...

There has also been a huge bear like creature spotted in Horspath, I think it is attracted by the teas served at the Cricket Club, strange it has never been seen at Shipton
There has also been a huge bear like creature spotted in Horspath, I think it is attracted by the teas served at the Cricket Club, strange it has never been seen at Shipton Steps TDCR
  • Score: 0

3:35pm Tue 14 Sep 10

Power says...

Im pretty sure that is a bear at horspath. I guess it could be some weird sort of human/animal hybrid, but if so it is grotesque. Very hairy and got 17 toes on each hand.
Im pretty sure that is a bear at horspath. I guess it could be some weird sort of human/animal hybrid, but if so it is grotesque. Very hairy and got 17 toes on each hand. Power
  • Score: 0

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