Angus and Fife are leading the pack when it comes to recorded sightings of "big cats" in Scotland, according to research being carried out.
Over 50 big cat reports have come from Fife in the last five years, while over 25 have been made in Angus.
The figures are revealed on the Alien Big Cats website, which has catalogued reported sightings from 1926 through to the present day.
The data is compiled from information reported to police forces around the country.
The majority of sightings in Fife have been made in the north east of the kingdom while in Angus there are clusters around Arbroath and Carnoustie.
Perth & Kinross and Dundee have relatively few recorded sightings - between five and 10 each - while another hot spot for big cats appears to be Grampian and the north-east.
A spokesperson for the website said the name "alien big cats" refers to exotic big cats which were never native to this country.
However, he added that not all big cats can be classified as alien, as the lynx was once an animal native to Scotland.
"The majority of sightings in Scotland are of black panthers, pumas and lynx," he added.
The website believes the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 encouraged people who kept such cats to release them into the wild, rather than have them destroyed.
In 1981 the Countryside and Wildlife Act made it an offence to release any non-indigenous animal into the wild, although the site says by that point the damage was done.
"Many of the exotic creatures seen today are thought to be descended from pets released in the 1970s," the spokesman added.
The site's earliest record of a big cat being spotted is from 1926 and over the past 20 years over 1000 sightings of big cats have been reported to police forces in Scotland.
A puma, given the name Felicity, was captured at Cannich, near Inverness, in 1980.
She spent five years at the Highland Wildlife Park and was stuffed following her death.
The website can be found at: http://www.bigcats.org/
Dundee Evening Telegraph: 24 th May 2001
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