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Big cat enthusiast: There are pumas in Bucks
THE lion hunt in Essex over the weekend was blown out of proportion, a beast of Bucks expert says.
But Paul Nicolaides is convinced there are a number of puma or leopard like creatures living in Bucks and surrounding areas.
Mr Nicolaides, who has been following sightings of big cats in Buckinghamshire for years, has stealth cameras positioned in different parts of the county, including Stokenchurch and Bledlow Ridge.
Police launched a hunt for a 'lion' in Clacton at the weekend after reports of a large cat, but have since called off the search. It is now believed to have been a large domestic or wildcat.
Mr Nicolaides said: “What happened at the weekend has all been blown out of proportion. Police do get regular calls about big cats every now and again but I don't know what the frequency is.”
However, just two months ago he was asked to visit a farm in Hertfordshire where a horse had been severely injured in an attack by an unknown animal, which appeared to be a big cat.
“It had clambered up on the horse's back and there were claw backs,” he said.
“Usually they'll move on, they could be in Bucks one day, Hertfordshire the next.
“You just don't know, maybe this (the Essex big cat) is the same one we had in Hertfordshire two months ago.”
He said it was purely speculation but it was feasible because of the distance they travel.
His research leaves him with no doubt that big cats are roaming around Britain.
“They move between counties but I think there's a population of leopards and pumas,” he said.
“There's been a lot of sightings in Buckinghamshire, very distinct sightings.”
There was a sudden influx of reports around High Wycombe and the Rye about two years ago, he revealed.
He said: “It was unbelievable, I got three emails in the space of a week from people on the same part of the outskirts of High Wycombe.
“This was in people's gardens, residents seeing a big black cat as big as a dog eating off the bird table.”
His studies have focused on the Stokenchurch area after a notorious case in 1983 which made the headlines as armed police became involved in a search.
Mr Nicolaides believes there may well be big cats living in woodland in that vicinity today and says an increasing number of missing dog posters leaves him to wonder if the creatures are preying on pets.
Rick Minter, author of Big Cats: Facing Britain's Wild Predators, concurred that big cats could roam across counties due to the long distance they can travel.
He said: “Certainly over the years, Buckinghamshire has had its fair share of sightings. They seem to fit this pattern of more black panther type scale of animals and less of the sandy grey puma types, some are difficult to classify.”
Although the Essex case has grabbed the headlines, many credible reports do not get the same publicity, he said.
He said: “A lot of people don't like to report these animals because they fear ridicule.
“They also sometimes feel protective of it and don't want to give it away.
“Landowners may worry about encouraging trophy hunters. Most people who come to people like us don't want it publicised.”
Have you been a witness to any big cat activity in Bucks? Contact Mr Nicolaides via his website: www.bigcatsofthechilterns.co.uk/contact.html