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The Lligwy Panther

May 4, 2014

Do big cats such as black panthers really roam the UK?  From the late-50s, claimed sightings have often been reported in the media – ‘The Shooters Hill Cheetah’ (1963), ‘The Beast of Bodmin’ (1992), ‘The Fen Tiger’ (1994), and so on.

The question came to mind recently when I chanced upon an old email exchange with a friend.

In the summer of 2008, my wife and I enjoyed a five-day break in a caravan on a site near Moelfre on the north-eastern coast of the Isle of Anglesey, North Wales.  The van belonged to a friend of mine and following our return I emailed her to say thank you:

 

MONDAY 07/07/08

[…]  Your van is lovely and we liked the site too.

The weather wasn’t great – lots of sudden, drenching downpours.  Except on Friday, of course, when it turned bright and sunny as we were packing for home!  But we loved Anglesey and had a great time anyway, out and about every day.  We especially loved Porth Amlwych, an old schooner moored in the inner basin.  And Porth Dafarch, where we walked along the clifftops with fantastic views over the bay below.

I enjoyed popping to the Pilot Boat for a swift half and walking down the lane to Traeth Lligwy, where I had a strange experience in the twilight, an impression of something darting across my path, a very quick fox, perhaps… or a ghost?

Spotted your buzzard […]

 

My friend replied saying she hoped my twilight experience wasn’t the panther reportedly sighted in the car park at Lligwy Beach.  We had a laugh about it over a drink a few days later.

The creature had been like greased lightning, crossing the sandy track before me from undergrowth on the right to undergrowth on the left in a split-second, leaving only a most blurred impression.  A panther?  Surely this was too far-fetched?  Gradually the episode faded from my mind.

***

Lligwy, with its wide sandy beach and beautiful bay, is popular with families, fishermen and watersport enthusiasts.  Dolphins may sometimes be glimpsed leaping the waves…

And, yes, when I went online after finding that old email exchange, I did indeed discover a press report confirming that on 31st January 2008, five months before my twilight experience, there’d been a claimed big cat sighting in roughly the same spot.

The claim was made by a visitor from Ashton-under-Lyne who’d come to Lligwy with his son to fish.  It was a crisp day with good visibility, and they were walking up a path from the car park when, a hundred yards ahead, they saw a large black cat, possibly a puma.  It was described as “bigger than a Labrador” and “in good nick.”  Unfortunately the creature disappeared into the undergrowth before they could take a picture.

After further searching, I came across another press story of note, this one dating from October 2011, over three years after my possible sighting.  A farmer from the north of Anglesey claimed to have encountered a large black cat, possibly a panther, on eight separate occasions, most recently when it attacked a ram in broad daylight, biting its neck.  He shouted at the beast and it made off at great speed.  The farmer claimed to have seen it jump over hedgerows with ease.

With both the February 2008 and October 2011 stories, the police told the press that nothing had been brought to their attention.

***

So how likely is it that what I glimpsed that evening at Lligwy was a big cat on the loose?  Well, it certainly wasn’t a ghost – that was a joke.  It crossed my path in a flash but I knew it was a living, breathing animal of some sort, probably a predator, and quite a big one too.  Bigger than a fox?  Possibly, yes.  Feline?  Hmmm… I must beware my imagination getting the better of me!

Big cats, phantom cats, mystery cats… many of the claimed UK sightings are bound to have been hoaxes or mistaken observations.  But not all.  In 1980, a puma was captured in Inverness-shire, Scotland, put in a zoo and given the name Felicity.  In 1991, a Eurasian lynx was shot in Norfolk.  And these are just two examples of big cats reportedly killed or captured here.

But how could big cats alien to Britain be roaming free?  Zoo escapes maybe?  Possibly the most plausible theory is that following the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, requiring owners to be licensed, some released their exotic cats instead.

As to whether big cats really do live and breed in the wilds of Anglesey, I’ve no idea.  But this I do know: whatever it was I glimpsed that evening at Lligwy, it unnerved me sufficiently to beat a hasty retreat back to the caravan!

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2014

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From → True Stories

10 Comments
  1. Paul, anything is possible now days, and thankfully you made it back to the caravan unharmed. The holiday you experienced brought beautiful pictures to my mind’s eye. Although the weather was not the best you made me think of misty sights of the schooner and the walk along the cliff tops overlooking the bay. It makes me want to pack a bag and visit North Wales.

  2. Thanks, Pat. I hadn’t heard about the claimed puma sighting at the time of my twilight experience, but it still left me feeling rather wobbly.

    I love North Wales, and I’m sure you would too, so do please come. A favourite place of mine is Llanasa, a tiny stone-built village in the Clwydian Range with sheep-dotted hills rising all around. The Red Lion (Y Llew Coch) dates from circa 1600, the Parish Church from the late 15th century, and I always feel I’m stepping back in time here. Such is the air of peace and tranquillity, I feel a little sad that the rest of the world cannot be like this. A must for your itinerary, I’d say!

    Have a wonderful weekend,

    Paul

  3. Are you sure it was just ‘a swift half’ daddy? xx

    • Hi darl, I couldn’t swear to it being swift but it was definitely only a half!
      Love you,
      Dad xxx

  4. Maureen Weldon permalink

    Very, very interesting!

    from,

    Maureen

  5. Maureen, thank you, I’m really pleased you like this piece. Occasionally, recalling my twilight experience at Lligwy, I’ve felt my blood run cold…

    Yours,

    Paul

  6. Jan permalink

    Every likelihood that what you fleetingly saw was a panther. I with my husband saw one on Anglesey in the early 1980s. We were close to the animal and had a very clear view of it. It was larger than an Alsatian, appeared to be black all over & had a long tail which curled above it’s body. We were looking down on it whilst it moved slowly underneath us whilst we were up some trees picking apples in Llanddona which is close to Lligwy. It was in very good light at the start of an Autumn evening. We had a close sideways view of the animal as it was almost directly underneath us. It was a powerful & healthy looking creature. More disturbingly the animal came under our caravan that night shaking it violently as it dug under the vehicle hunting an animal. We didn’t see it then as it was dark but it left a paw print on our car’s bonnet. Sadly this happened before all carried phones with cameras so we have no photographic evidence. There’s no doubt what we saw was a big cat/puma. I marvel to this day that I wasn’t more nervous about this event but we were young and less likely to be fearful despite the fact that we had our two very young children with us. So pumas have been roaming Anglesey for a long time.

    • Jan, thank you so much. Yours is one of the best first-hand accounts of a UK big cat sighting I’ve seen. And with Llanddona being just around the bay from Lligwy, I’m inclined to think, quite seriously, that my twilight glimpse a quarter-century later really might have been a panther or something of the sort. Scary stuff! Glad your creature didn’t decide to climb any trees…

      Paul

      • Jan permalink

        Hello again Paul. Yes there’s absolutely no doubt that big cats were/are on Anglesey. I sent the previous email to you in the early hours. On reflection I made a mistake in the animal’s description. It’s characteristically long tail wasn’t curled over it’s back but was carried behind it’s body with only it’s end turned up. A very impressive if very surprising site. Surprisingly unthreatening.
        I’ve only just picked up your reply. Coincidentally I was talking earlier to a couple who have relations in N. India where leopards can be found. I gather the locals & leopards live side by side. The cats are more wary of the humans than vice versa & are happy to snatch & eat the local dogs rather than ‘long pig’! So hopefully your large cat was well fed from farm animals, horses & wildlife, in general.
        All the best
        Janet

  7. Thanks, Janet, good to hear from you again. Funny, isn’t it, how the mind reacts when confronted by the incredible or uncanny? I was frankly unnerved by my possible panther sighting in 2008 but cool as a cucumber, simply fascinated and rubbing my eyes in disbelief, when I saw something decidedly weird on a railway line in West Wales 32 years earlier – see ‘The Barmouth Ghost’ (under TRUE STORIES, 15/01/12). It’s a grotesque thought that my panther might eat horses – but better than “long pig” any day!

    Best,

    Paul

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