Thanks to Leo Martin for his invaluable help with compiling the newspaper cuttings.
The official comments and reaction to the Beast of Bodmin Moor has already been covered in The Ubiquitous Beast.
The government report concluding that there were no big cat on Bodmin Moor and the fact that a leopard skull found in the river Fowey have been covered in Hoax! Hoax! Hoax!.
However, the sightings continued. In fact, enough evidence has been presented for biologiests to declare that Wildcats still survive in the West Country, and that pumas are breeding there. Follow the latest reports.
An MP has called for a 3 year government enquiry into the existence of big cats in the wild to be resumed after 5 ewes were killed in Cornwall.
North Cornwall Liberal Democrat MP, Paul Tyler, said he had built up a dossier of big cat sightings in the last month, where the ewes were killed.
The inquiry had found no evidence to show that cats lived on Bodmin Moor.
BBC Ceefax, 15 th November, 1997
Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, is an unlikely big game hunter. One could hardly picture the MP, who spends his free time pottering in the garden or sailing, posing with rifle in hand and his boot resting on a dead tiger.
Yet despite assurances from government officials that wild beasts are not roaming the farmlands and national parks of Britain, Mr Tyler is demanding that the search for pumas, lynxes and cougars must continue. His suspicions have been fuelled by the mysterious savaging of five ewes while grazing on a landscaped tip in his constituency at St Austell.
Mr Tyler has been told by five Cornish councillors that they spotted a puma taking a drink from a pool in the same area while on a council coach trip last month. Planning committee chairwoman Joan Vincent said that another councillor drew her attention to the animal as they were passing clay workings near Penwithick.
'It was drinking from a pool,' said Mrs Vincent. 'It was larger than an Alsatian dog. It was very dark brown, with a longish tail, curved at the end. It was definitely a big animal of some kind.'
Mr Tyler said this weekend: 'I shall be approaching the Ministry of Agriculture on Monday to make sure the previous investigation, which I instigated three years ago, is resumed.'
But while Mr Tyler would have no trouble convincing other MPs of the reality of the Rt. Honourable Dennis Skinner MP, aka the Beast of Bolsover, he has had less success in establishing the existence of the Beast of Bodmin, the Beast of Cupar in Scotland and other 'big cats'.
Charles Wilson, a zoologist who carried out the previous government inquiry, concluded there was no evidence to show large cats were living on Bodmin Moor. Nevertheless, Mr Tyler has collected a dossier of big cat sightings and says the government inquiry 'did not produce any conclusive evidence either way'.
The Independent, 17 th November, 1997
A Cornish Liberal Democrat MP is demanding that a government enquiry into the Beast of Bodmin be reopened. Paul Tyler has asserted that the photographs and evidence such as bite marks and droppings are sufficient reason to treat the matter seriously. His fears are in case the beast attacks children. If his request is successful, he may have to include Norfolk in his enquiry.
At least 54 people have reported seeing a beast since the beginning of July. Farmers have been reporting attacks on chickens, and are reported finding a mutilated, half eaten lamb, half way up one of is tree's. One former policeman has set up an organisation called 'Farmwatch.'
"This is not a figment of someone's over active imagination," he said. "I have no doubt it exists."
However , as is normally the case with the paranormal, there is concerns that people are not reporting the sightings for fear of ridicule. But with the presence of MPs in both cases, at least the issues are getting aired in the political arena.
Encounters Magazine, December 1997
The Beast of Bodmin remains a mystery as scientists continue their analysis of DNA tests. Results had been expected yesterday but genetics experts as Leicester University revealed that it could take some time before they are known. Their findings could prove wether the outsize creature which stalks the moor is a puma, a wild cat or a large dog.
In November a couple saw a large brown animal answering the call of nature in countryside near Torrington, Devon. A sample of droppings was sent to genetics experts at Leicester University. But a university spokesman said of the analysis process: "We are not sure how long it will take."
The Independent, 17 th January 1998
Government accountability is the hot issue. Thanks to probing commons scrutiny in the past day or so, for instance, we know which Whitehall Ministers are responsible for 1:) The Beast of Bodmin and other savage cats: 2) Dodgy old Ford Cortinas that pump out too much smoke.
Well past bedtime on Monday, MPs were found to be listening to the big cats, (Norfolk) debate. An East Anglian MP, Keith Simpson, (Con) described the rise in sightings of mysterious killer felines in rural Britain. Ewes, lambs and horses had been killed.
"Norfolk's big cat has to compete with he Fen tiger, the beast of Bodmin, the Durham puma, the Nottingham lion and the cougar of Cupar," said Mr. Simpson.
"Perhaps Old Shuck or Black Shuck, the mythical large dog which roamed our Norfolk landscape looking for his master in the 18th century, has returned to haunt its descendants. Perhaps it is farmers looking for compensation on a scale of the likes of which they have never seen. Perhaps our tourist industry in mid-Norfolk is looking for its equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster.
Sightings were not always the result of heavy drinking by Fenland rustlers. "The majority were reported by perfectly normal, rational members of the public". Something needed to be done - but by whom ?
Elliott Morley, that was who. Mr. Morley, an agricultural minister, recalled the time that three lions escaped from a circus in Grimsby and one man was savaged. "He ran to the car in which his wife was sitting but she refused to open the door. I am quite sure that was due to her fear and had nothing to do with any acrimony between her and her husband."
He continued: "It is impossible to say categorically that no big cats are living wild in Britain, so it is only right and proper that the ministry should continue to investigate serious claims of their existence."
Daily Telegraph, 4 th February 1998
Video footage of a 'big cat' roaming Bodmin Moor is to be examined by government experts. The 20 seconds of footage, which appears to show a black 3ft 6inch long animal, will be unveiled by Newquay Zoo curator Mike Thomas at a news conference tomorrow.
Cornwall Liberal Democrat MP Paul Tyler said he believed there was not just one but a "whole population" of big cats in the area.
The Daily Mirror, 20 th July 1998
For most of our national newspapers the mystery of the big cats that many believe stalk the Westcountry was solved yesterday - and they could all have a jolly good laugh about it.
"Tiddles, the wild beast of Bodmin," tittered one, above a picture of a black cat captured on video footage and presented at a press conference at Newquay Zoo.
"Zoo purrs over its monster video," said another; "The Moggy of Bodmin, " mocked a third......all good clean fun for newspapers which make only occasional forays into the Westcountry, and for whom the story of "The Beast of Bodmin" has horror film connotations.
But, with one or two exceptions, the nationals all missed the point yesterday about the footage released by Newquay Zoo curator Mike Thomas.
He did not claim that the film, taken by an unnamed man at an unidentified spot near Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor, was supposed to show the fabled "beast".
He told journalists who bothered to listen that the pictures added to a growing body of evidence pointing to the continued existence of indigenous wildcats which were thought to have died out in England as long ago as 1870.
As the WMN reported yesterday, Mr. Thomas, clearly told the press conference: "The theory I am putting forward is that this is an interesting species of wild cat because of its sleekness and body power."
What he went on to say itself debunked the "beast" myth: "Is the cat that people are seeing ? We are fairly certain."
Yesterday's evidence, as WMN readers will know, is just the latest little piece of the jigsaw that has been building up over many years since regular sightings of big cats began to be widely reported.
As with any phenomena like this, there will be people who want to believe in something strange and mysterious lurking in the wild uplands of the Westcountry and who are prepared to ignore common sense.
What is different about the sightings reported to WMN and to the people like Mr. Thomas at Newquay Zoo is that very many of them are made by sane and sensible farmers and landowners who know what they are talking about.
Some of the reports come from farmers who have lost stock to a predator that cannot be easily identified as a fox, a domestic dog or any other animal known to live and breed in our region. Others have come from council planners on a site visit to a Westcountry quarry who saw a large black cat and later found paw prints in the soft clay.
Naturalists and environmentalists, who risk putting their professional reputations on the line if they make claims that they cannot support, have also come forward with evidence of big cats.
None of these people, Zoo curator Mr. Thomas included, has anything to gain by supporting theories that hold them up to ridicule. Yet they, along with North Cornwall MP Paul Tyler, firmly believe there is something in all of this that is worth further investigation.
Mr. Tyler will now take the latest evidence - including a dossier of sightings, the video and photographic evidence, and cats taken from paw prints - to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Their last, woefully underfunded, investigation failed to find any evidence of the big cats, but Countryside Minister Eliot Morley has always promised to re-open inquiries if such a course is justified.
The WMN has never subscribed to the view that a dangerous beast is lurking in the undergrowth ready to spring out and attack anyone who is passing. But the possibility that there exist in our region large cats like pumas, which were held in captivity by private collectors and freed when there was a crackdown on wild animals, seemed feasible.
So does Mr. Thomas's belief in an indigenous, smaller, wildcat. With so many incidents, nothing should be discounted. The story of some sort of mythical "beast" with staring eyes and sharpened claws has been thoroughly debunked over the last few years. In its place a far less dramatic, but no less interesting, story of wild cats has gained credibility.
Plenty of questions remained unanswered. Farmers are still loosing stock and intelligent, sane and well-balanced country people are still seeing what look like large cats in our fields and woods.
The Government should look at this latest evidence with a fresh eye - not the jaundiced cynical view taken by Fleet Street. Then it should take into account all the other reported sightings, paw prints, etc. and re-open its inquiries.
Western Morning News, 22 nd July 1998
An animal expert yesterday unveiled video footage of what he said was a wild cat living in the Westcountry countryside - but stressed he was not claiming it was the "Beast of Bodmin".
Mike Thomas is convinced the animal could be a species of wild cat believed to have become extinct in the UK around 1870.
Mr. Thomas, curator of Newquay Zoo, said the brief video footage, from which still photographs have been taken, was the best evidence yet of the presence of big cats living wild in the countryside.
He said the animal is at least three feet long, including its tail, with golden eyes and a rounded tail - domestic cats have tapered tails.
The man who took the video footage says it shows two different cats, an adult and a young cat, in the same location at different times.
The man, who wants to remain anonymous, said the video was taken in what he believed was a breeding area for the cats, "not a million miles from Jamaica Inn public house," which is in the heart of Bodmin Moor.
The 20 seconds of video, taken from about six hours of filming, were shown at a Press conference at Newquay Zoo where Mr. Thomas had been collating evidence on Westcountry wild cats for three years.
Over the past couple of years there have been about 160 reported sightings all over the Westcountry. About 70% of the reports are of big black cats or panthers, but other sightings have been of large brown cats or pumas, and lynx and other creatures.
Mr. Thomas's dossier of sightings and investigations, including photographs and the video, will be presented to the Countryside Minister Elliot Morley by North Cornwall MP Paul Tyler.
Mr. Morley, junior Agriculture Minister, has promised to re-open the Ministry of Agriculture's "inconclusive" 1995 investigation into big cat sightings if evidence submitted to him justifies a fresh probe.
Mr. Tyler said he believed there was a "whole population" of big cats in and around mid-Cornwall and Bodmin Moor. "I am confident we are getting closer to a solution of this mystery," he said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture said it would give the full video evidence its "full consideration."
Mr. Thomas said: "The theory I am putting forward is that this is an interesting species of wild cat because of its sleekness and body power. It is the cat that people are seeing ? We are fairly certain, 99% certain, that big cats do exist."
"I do not believe this is just a large domestic cat. What we have here is a piece of video of a black cat well over three feet long. Its eyes are golden and its tail is rounded, whereas domestic cats have tapered tails. This is a powerful muscular creature and we have been able to size it from the scale of objects in other footage"
He said the other footage had not been shown because it identified the location where the cats had been spotted, and they did not want to do this to avoid disturbing the animals.
WMN wildlife expert Trevor Beer referred to Mr. Thomas's suggestion that the cat may be a species thought to have become extinct in the UK around 1870. Mr. Beer said he had been corresponding for eight years with West Midlands-based Dr. Karl Shuker, a doctor of zoology and an expert in mystery large cats, on the presence of wild cats on Exmoor.
"We have known for all of that time that there is still a relic population but they are too small to tackle anything from the size of a sheep upwards," he said.
Western Morning News, 22 nd July 1998
I write with reference to your article by Michael Taylor: "Experts' big cats evidence, (WMN, July 24th.) It may be of interest that a large cat was run over on a road near South Molton in 1966. I had the opportunity of examaning the carcass despite its head having been severely crushed.
The length including tail was three foot, (body 2ft, tail 1ft) the body colour was grey/brown, the legs had faint dark stripes, the tail was black at the point and ringed with black towards the base.
It was female and weighed approximately 10lb's (i.e over twice the weight of the average domestic female) and it was not in kitten., the only remarkable thing visible about the head was the large number of very long and stiff ear bristles.
I took the carcase home, where it was examined by the curator and keeper of cats at a well-known wildlife park. They were of he opinion that it was an African Wild Cat. This opinion is backed by the fact that, in the 1970s, African Wild Cats had been kept near here in the Exmoor foothills, and when the owner left in a hurry, it is rumoured, they were released.
Occasionally, however, large cats of this size and bigger have been caught in rabbit snares in this area, from the 1920s onwards, and the colours have been black or mottled black and brown with marked protruding fangs.
I would agree with WMN wildlife expert Trevor Beer that cats of this size are not likely to attack sheep but at times would take small lambs.
Nigel Brierly, South Molton.
Western Morning News, 29 th July 1998
A naturalist claims to have uncovered new evidence that big cats are breeding in the wild in Devon and Cornwall. Nigel Brierly's claims coincide with the nation-wide broadcast tonight of a new BBC documentary which supports the existence of big cats in the countryside, although stops short of saying they are definitely breeding in the wild.
But Mr. Brierly, who helped the BBC's Natural History Unit research the programme and has devoted 15 years to studying big cats, is adamant that they are breeding in the region. After a professional lifetime collecting biological specimens for London schools, Mr. Brierly was attracted to the big cat mystery when he moved to Bishops Nympton near South Molten in North Devon in the 1980s.
His interest was initially sparked by the killings of large numbers of sheep by an unknown predator in 1983. His research since then has resulted in a book, 'They Stalk By Night'. He now claims to have found the paw prints of a pair of large cats at a secret location in North Devon.
"They are definitely male and female", said Mr. Brierly. "Quite honestly I dont think anyone has published anything with male and female prints before."
Mr. Brierly compared the casts of is paw marks with impressions made by adult pumas and found them to be virtually identical. The casts of the male were measured against a male puma, in California, while Mr. Brierly borrowed a female from a Westcounty wildlife park to conduct his own tests.
"While I had a female I let her run over some sand and saw that the paw marks were identical in size to the other females", he said.
In terms of both size and weight, Mr. Brierly's casts corresponded to a pair of adult pumas. Both males were twice as heavy as the females - 100 pounds as opposed to 50. Reluctant to identify his subjects definitely as pumas, Mr. Brierly said the animals were unquestionably of puma-size. Claiming to have heard the cry of the animals, he said their feline screaming also pointed towards the puma hypothesis.
Although he has seen no off-spring himself, Mr. Brierly has heard of six or seven eyewitness accounts of cub sightings. One friend - a school teacher - claimed to have stumbled across a group of cubs on an Exmoor road.
"She was motoring along on her own at night and she picked them up in her headlights," said Mr. Brierly. "Her description was of young pumas with spots on them. She couldn't have got it wrong because her husband had been so interested in the subject."
He said a farmer near Tiverton had an even more intimate encounter. "He was walking with his dog and saw these cubs by the side of a hedge," said Mr. Brierly. "The mother came out between him and the cubs and then they just disappeared into the hedge. He had a hell of a fright." Mr. Brierly, 78, said: "They are definitely breeding out there. We just cannot say how fast."
The X-Creatures, screened at 7pm on BBC 1 tonight, (see review below) claims the big cats are most probably exotic pets abandoned when tough legislation on keeping such animals was introduced in 1976.
North Cornwall Lib Dem MP Paul Tyler, who for four years has argued that big cats exist in the Westcounty, tell's tonight's programme he is hopeful the Government and Ministry of Agriculture will now take the matter more seriously.
Western Morning News, 23 rd September 1998
The X-Creatures - Big Cats In A Little Country, BBC 1, Tonight 7 pm.
Biologist Chris Packham removes his designer sunglasses, stares at the camera and urges the viewer, "dont have nightmares."
Easier said than done after half an hour watching his programme which sets out to explore the likelihood of big cats living wild in the British countryside, and more pertinently wether or not they pose a threat to other animals and humans.
In the opening sequence the full moon slips behind a dark cloud as a lone motorist stops to change a flat tyre on an isolated Exmoor road. The camera flashes from frightened sheep to the face of a puma lurking in the undergrowth, voices on the car radio discuss the possibility of big cats attacking people, the man glances behind, the sheep run, the puma pounces., the rest is left to your imagination.
Could this, Packham proceeds to examine, be a scenario for the future? Packham speaks to experts with conflicting opinions and to a string of eye-witnesses convinced they have seen the evidence themselves.
The result is an intriguing piece of television which asks as many questions as it answers but for once takes seriously a topic often dismissed as hype or fantasy.
Western Morning News, 23 rd September 1998
It could be said that the 'Beast' of Exmoor and Bodmin big cat stories began with a mysterious creature element to them, but it was well known in the mid 1980's that Exmoor, for example, had a population of pumas, black leopards and smaller exotic or feral species which were real and tangible flesh and blood animals.
The presence of such cats in the Westcountry and elsewhere in Britain goes back over many centuries and has given rise to all kinds of tales, including hauntings and the like.
Sightings in recent times have been given much media coverage, some of it sensationalising the so-called "Beast" aspect to a ridiculous degree whilst others have poured scepticism on the whole situation.
Proof is the only criterion that will lay the "ghosts" once and for all - but in that case the puma caught in Scotland some years ago, and one shot not far from Greenwhich Observatory are surely proof.
Equally the police have records of pumas in captivity in North Devon, used to deter possible burglars by a local businessman, and of another brought into a local police station which promptly escaped again into the main street. It was promptly recaptured, it is true, but these are all proof that pumas were and are about. As to black leopards, I and many others have seen the creatures in the wild, sometimes alone, sometimes with cubs or sub-adults in tow.
Thus breeding has taken place and in my view feral British big cats or cats now exist.
The only other possible explanation that can debunk this theory is that females and cubs have been released together into the wild, and I would not doubt this. Several years ago I took plaster casts of several prints found in the Westcountry and these have received positive identification as being the prints of big cats by acknowledged experts in the field of zoology.
The puma and leopard situation in the wild is a very real one and causes concern to some, while others are intrigued enough to prefer to study the natural history of the animals in the wild. As long ago as 1967 the Western Morning News reported on pumas in the wild.
They and other cat species are still here - not as mythical creatures, but as misplaced alien species put there by someone's irresponsible actions. Western Morning News: September, 23rd 1998.
Western Morning News, 29 th September 1998
From 1957-64, I presented wildlife items for children's ITV and did a weekly slot for adults for two years before joining Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, as a warden. I've had a cottage near Bodmin for ten years and have been exposed to local and national opinion about the 'Beast of Bodmin'. Some claim that pumas have bred there for 50 years, but not one has been proven to exist.
I'm worried about a growing trend of belief that big and medium-sized cats abound in Britain. The increase in rumours rapidly results in what happened last weekend: a mass police response, with a helicopter and armed men - and at what cost?
In the Serengeti, we spent much time in small aircraft, flying low over the park where we would often see lion, leopard, serval and caracal lynx. I phoned Bodmin Flying Club and asked them whether, on the many days they fly from early morning to late in the day, if they had seen anything. They have never seen a thing.
A quarter of a million dog bites are reported every year in the UK, and precious little is done about them. For an incident that resulted in nothing, the police response in South Mimms was an incredible waste of money.
Yeti and Bigfoot are said to exist in wilderness areas mainly because those who claim that they exist know it can never totally be disproved. But a puma in Hertfordshire, or on Bodmin Moor, is highly provable and, unless its existence is proven fast, it doesn't exist.
As I run a wildlife sanctuary, Hertfordshire police once asked me to attend a wallaby on Harpenden Common. It was a muntjac deer, the size of a spaniel and common there. Police also called me out because a 'puma' had been seen in St. Albans. It was a Great Dane. The trendance to see 'big cats' loose in Britain will cost us all unless someone uses common sense and demands proof.
G. Dangerfield, Harpenden, Herts.
Daily Mail, 1 st October 1998
Big cat trackers from Newquay Zoo are to use infra-red lights and movement sensors in the latest attempt to prove the existence of the Cornish beast. Zoo owner Mike Thomas was expecting the new equipment to arrive this week amid a flurry of fresh reports of large cat-like animals in Cornwall.
Bodmin Moor and vicinity is still the epicentre of recent and past sightings, but last Monday a farmer living between Camborne and Godrevy called Mike to say he had been within five yards of a big cat.
Mike said: "He described it as being brown, about three-and-a-half feet long, with a tail almost as long. He said it had the definite loping run of a cat and that he had been a disbeliever until this morning."
Other sightings in the past few weeks have come from Falmouth and Bodmin Moor, where animal kills have also been found.
"The latest kill I had was a Shetland sheep which had been killed by a bite to the neck severing the spinal column. Most of the flesh had been stripped off. All I know from looking at it is that it wasn't caused by a dog," he said.
The new equipment will be used to try and take a clear photograph Ð the nearest thing to proof without finding a dead large cat or catching a live one. Infra-red lights are invisible to animals but light up the night for human viewers. Movement sensors would detect any animal and trigger strategically-placed cameras to take a picture.
Mike said he would use the equipment as soon as a suitable location emerged. Measuring posts would be placed within the camera's view to give a sense of scale Ð in an attempt to satisfy sceptics who rubbished previous pictures as showing nothing more than a domestic cat.
North Cornwall MP Paul Tyler has launched an appeal to people in the county to report any unexplained animal kills. Convinced more research was needed, he said:
"We need hard evidence of any livestock kills. The best data comes from a fresh carcass."
He agreed that sightings had increased in recent months.
"It may be that these animals are breeding, and that they are uncharacteristically bold in their search for food."
Countryside minister Elliot Morley had agreed that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would review any new data, said Mr Tyler. Tests carried out on dung found by Mike Thomas earlier this year and suspected as being from a large cat were not conclusive.
The Cornish Man, 8 th August 1999
Sheep breeder Judith Lapthorne is to install security lights around a field on the edge of Dartmoor in an attempt to scare off a puma-like big cat which she believes was responsible for killing and eating one of her pedigree rams.
Mrs Lapthorne, who rears 250 sheep from her farm at Smithaleigh, near Plympton, says she has seen the big cat with her own eyes. The remains of her 10-month-old ram were found in an orchard at Filham, near Ivybridge, where it had been grazing. It had severe bite wounds to| the throat and face. Its carcass had been stripped down to the bone by an animal that was obviously hungry. A second prizewinning ram also died, probably as a result of stress, the day after the night-time attack.
"I've never seen anything like this before," said Mrs Lapthorne, who discovered the dead animal on Wednesday. She had kept 17 rams in the rented field and had checked them the previous evening. The big cat gained access to the field either by jumping over a stone hedge topped with a fence - a barrier five to six feet high - or via a double set of gates across the entrance.
Mrs Lapthorne will now place flashing lights around the field in an attempt to scare the predator away from the location. She has also told police of the attack.
"If it's a puma that's killed the sheep and filled its belly up, they think it's two or three days before they strike again." She believes the attack was the work of a big cat that has been roaming the South Hams countryside and has been spotted several times.
"I just can't see how a dog would get in this field. It's too difficult," she said. "It has got to be something that has a strong mouth and is capable of breaking a neck to immobilise its prey. There was no struggle at all in the field."
Shortly before last Christmas, Mrs Lapthorne, 35, saw a big cat cross the road in front of her near Langage, Plympton. "It had a tail about 3ft long. It was quite sleek. I jumped from the hedge into the road and across."
Earlier this year, a farm manager told her he had also seen a similar puma-like animal.
Two weeks ago, her uncle reported seeing a similar beast, this time in woods between Ermington and Ivybridge.
A sighting in May, on the outskirts of Ivybridge, led to parents being warned not to let their children walk home from school alone and police increasing patrols.
There have been at least five publicised sightings of a big cat in the same region of South Devon this year alone, with more incidents reported in Cornwall.
The WMN reported yesterday how motorist Geoff Drew spotted a big cat on the A30 near Okehampton earlier this week.
Western Morning News, 18 th October 1999
Police are investigating the sighting of a mysterious large "puma-like" black cat at Cornwood on Dartmoor. A local woman, who has asked not be named, was alarmed to see the creature chasing pheasants in a field on the Blachford estate, and called the police.
She spotted the creature from the garden of her house at 6 pm on Monday, and went inside to her bedroom upstairs to get a better look. She is convinced she saw a big cat similar to other sightings reported on Dartmoor and on the northern edge of Plymouth.
Last year armed police were mobilised after reports of a "lion" on the loose at Wrangaton.
Strange big cats, some black but others brown or golden in colour, have been reported across the area from Liskeard to near Exeter.
In Cornwall the creatures have been dubbed The Beast of Bodmin Moor. Experts believe they could be the descendants of exotic pets released into the wild.
Ivybridge police officer Pc Chris May said: "This woman said it was longer than a dog and bigger than an alsatian. It had a long tail and was jet black."
He said two police officers searched the area and spoke with a local farmer but no animal carcasses or big cat footprints could be found.
News of the sighting soon spread throughout the village. Marion Meadows, landlady of The Cornwood Inn, said:
"Someone came into the pub and told me that a panther had been seen on the Blachford Estate. "I think it should be taken seriously. I often walk on the moors with my two cocker spaniel dogs and this just makes me a little more wary that something might be out there."
Deborah Brown, who helps run Cornwood Cattery at West Rooke Farm, said:
"You can get some big domestic cats, but not bigger than an alsatian."
Cat experts at Dartmoor Wildlife Park in Sparkwell believe there could be about 30 pumas roaming wild in the South West and 300 across the country. Senior keeper Robin Godbeer said:
"If the latest sighting is a puma it is nothing out of the ordinary. We know there are a lot around; most seem to be around the Wrangaton area."
He claims wild pumas have been attracted to the| wildlife park and added:
"We have four females here and when they are in season their smell can be picked up by a male up to five miles away. A jet black puma is rare but you do get them dark brown."
Evening Herald, 30 th Oct 1999
Part-time servicemen are hoping to throw new light on the long running mystery of the Beast of Bodmin during night exercises on wild Cornish moorland later this month.
Forty RAF reservists will be watching for the legendary big cat during a| training exercise on Bodmin moor.
The men, from the RAF's 2625 Auxiliary Regiment Squadron at RAF St Mawgan, north Cornwall, will be equipped with night vision aids.
The Guardian, 3 rd November 1999
Staring through night vision goggles, a member of the RAF scans the horizon of Bodmin Moor, looking for evidence of wild cats.
Only this high-tech equipment, which includes thermal imaging cameras and seismic sensors, will be able to detect any roaming animals in the darkness.
Bait, in the form of chicken and lamb entrails, had been laid out. Senior Aircraftsman Peter Maddick, seen here with the goggles, was among 24 members of the 2625 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment who spent the weekend in a stake-out of the moor.
Three observation points had been set out strategically, near to where at least seven big cat sightings had been reported in recent months.
Reporter Sharon van Geuns joined the team on its intrepid search, lying in silence and freezing temperatures in a makeshift den, waiting for the distinctive outline of a big cat.
Western Morning News, 15 th November 1999
So another black beast has been spotted, this time in sleepy Mortehoe. It poses the question: Do these creatures actually exist here in North Devon and Exmoor and, if so, why has one never been captured, or a corpse discovered ?
The mystery ranks in the same bracket as the Loch Ness monster, UFOs and ghosts - there are plenty of supposedly authentic sightings, but where is the proof?
It is a quarter of a century since the story broke about the Beast of Exmoor, but all we have ever had by way of evidence are carcases of mutilated sheep.
And since then, these panther-like cats have been spotted in a number of locations.
One wonders just how many more of them have been seen but the incident has gone unreported for fear of ridicule. I tend to lean to the side of probability that there are one or more big black cats out there, if only because many of the sightings have come from sober, responsible people who, before their experience, were highly sceptical.
I admit that, as in the case of UFOs, I want them to exist.
But I wish someone, somewhere, would produce one soon so that the Bard's assertion that "there are more things in heaven and earth" will never again be doubted.
North Devon Journal, 16 th December 1999
Compelling new evidence of the existence of big cats roaming the Westcountry will be shown on television tonight.Never-before-seen footage will be screened as part of a documentary called "Tracking the Beast of Bodmin" to be broadcast on Carlton Westcountry.
The programme features a fleeting few seconds of video footage of a mystery animal captured on film by a amateur cameraman five years ago. The remarkable pictures were taken in August, 1994, by English China Clays employee Roy Taylor, who witnessed the cat prowling through clay mines near St Austell.
Mr Taylor, a councillor on Restormel Borough Council, has kept the evidence of the sighting a secret for five years - only now agreeing to release the tape to journalists preparing the documentary. The images are blurred and shot from a distance, and last barely a few seconds. Nevertheless, animal experts who have examined the footage believe it is the best evidence yet of wild big cats wandering free around the Westcountry.
The video tape is expected provoke calls for Government experts to reopen investigations into the existence of the animals. It shows a mysterious black creature with a long tail climbing from a disused clay pit before crossing a path and disappearing into undergrowth. Experts believe the animal's gait and movement mark it out as a cat. They also estimate it at between four-and-a-half feet and six feet in length, ruling out the possibility of it being a normal domestic cat.
Mr Taylor, who was working as a site captain for ECC at the time, captured the sighting on a personal video camera he carried with him after several clay workers had reporting seeing the mystery beast.
"I was walking around the clay mine when my son spotted something moving in the distance," he said.
"I looked up and saw, about 300 yards away, this black cat moving across the landscape. It was definitely bigger than a domestic cat, so I grabbed my camera from the car and started to film."
Mr Taylor managed to track the beast for around 15 seconds before it disappeared into thick undergrowth. However, only a precious few seconds of the footage still remains after some was accidentally wiped from the tape when he showed it to friends. For five years the sighting has remained a closely guarded secret, known only to a select band of friends and relatives. Mr Taylor decided to withhold his revelation to prevent a massive game hunt for the beast.
"There have many sightings over the years, but big cats have never harmed anybody, so I didn't want to set off a hunt or provoke a great scare," he said.
Despite a number of similar sightings in the area, Mr Taylor said he believed the cat had now left the vicinity.
Carlton Westcountry's chief news correspondent, Graham Smith, who spent two weeks camped on Bodmin Moor searching for the beast during the making of the documentary, said the footage would confirm to many viewers the presence of big cats roaming the Westcountry.
"Journalists can be a cynical bunch, but when I showed the tape to colleagues in our newsroom I think a number of them were forced to reconsider their opinion on the beast," he said.
Animal expert Mike Thomas, who is using hidden cameras at secret locations in Cornwall to try to snatch photographic evidence of big cats, said the animal was similar to a leopard or panther and provided evidence of big cats living on the open moors of the Westcountry.
"There have been so many sightings over a number of years, despite the fact that these creatures are shy and avoid human contact," he said.
"I know these animals are out there and and so do all those who have seen them, who can't all be wrong."
Tracking the Beast of Bodmin is at 7.30 tonight on ITV.
Western Morning News, 28 th December 1999
A military exercise to find evidence of big cats roaming the Cornish countryside is being stepped up.
In November, 18 members of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment, based at RAF St Mawgan, were deployed on a night exercise to try to spot the elusive creatures.
Despite setting up observation posts and using high-tech night vision goggles and thermal imaging equipment, no evidence was found which would have laid to rest the big cat mystery.
But 70 personnel will again take to the wilds of Bodmin Moor on March 18 in an increased effort to provide definite evidence of the existence of the creatures.
The operation, named Exercise Last Look, will start at Davidstow Airfield on the Saturday morning, with a deployment by Sea King helicopter to a drop-off point on the edge of Bodmin Moor.
Troops will then move on foot to their designated observation posts ready for the night exercise.
Cornish Wildlife Magazine, February 2000
A Bodmin family are the latest to spot what they believe to be one of the area's mysterious big cats Ð but this time the animal was white.
And chewed bones found in the area where the mysterious animal was spotted are now being looked at by Newquay Zoo.
Derek and Christine Day, and their daughter Lisa who was celebrating her 17 th birthday, were amazed to see a large white creature sitting in open land near their home to the south of Bodmin.
The animal was about 200 yards away, so Derek grabbed his binoculars for a closer look.
"It was definitely a cat," said Derek.
"It was very big, bigger than a large dog, but the most striking thing was its colour. It was bright white.
"It had small ears and a solid bushy tail that was about 18ins long."
"It sat there for a while, it looked straight at me with its yellowy eyes then skulked off very quickly just like a cat low to the ground towards the railway line."
Christine called out to her parents who were visiting from Manchester. They caught a glimpse from the bedroom window. Christine's father Charles Sims, 72, said:
"We've seen the pictures of the beast of Bodmin and they are always a darker colour. Although this one was white, it is certainly not the kind of thing we expected to see when we visited."
Neighbour Clifford German, 43, was also outside when his attention was drawn to the animal. He saw another big cat six years ago in about the same spot.
"That was one of the first ones spotted. It was a dark one," he said.
"This one was a white colour. I looked at Derek and he just stood there completely amazed."
Derek, 41, went over to where he had seen the cat sitting and the grass was flattened. There was no sign of paw prints but a couple of days later he and Cornish Guardian photographer Tim Neale found remains of chewed bones.
Mike Thomas, of Newquay Zoo, said this was the first report he had had of a big cat that is white.
"Albino cats are very rare," he said.
"They tend not to live very long as they are so visible. There have only been three albino pumas ever recorded in North America where the cats are commonly found.
"If there is one around, you would expect more people to see it." He added:
"Cats tend to return to the same place to give birth and in my opinion it is the perfect time of year to do that. They would then be out hunting to feed their young and they would do that at dawn and dusk.
"The timing is right, the location is right, but the colour is very unusual."
Mr Thomas will be having a close look at the bones and should be able to tell from teeth marks what kind of animal had been eating it.
Cornish Wildlife: March 2000
With military planning fit for a Kosovo war zone, they were poised ready to pounce. But the target of this RAF unit is a danger only to chickens, rabbits and livestock. And some say it doesn't even exist.
Even if they spotted their quarry, the volunteer gunners did not have the ammo to finish it off. For the squad was mobilised specially to track down but not kill the mysterious wild cat dubbed the Beast of Bodmin.
Complete with camouflage gear and the latest surveillance equipment, about 50 reservists spent the weekend dug into trenches on Bodmin Moor. Their mission: gather conclusive evidence that the elusive creature - thought to be a puma or similar predator - exists.
Yesterday, after the weekend exercise failed to detect so much as a cat's whisker, Squadron Leader Andy McCombe explained the thinking behind the operation.
"I have to train my volunteers in techniques used for keeping the enemy under observation," he said.
"This involves setting up observation posts in open territory and keeping watch all through the day and night. It seemed a good idea since we are based in Cornwall to give them something extra to do at the same time.
"Watching for something with four legs and a tail would tend to focus their minds a bit more. At the same time, there have been so many sightings of these animals which are considered unreliable. If two military-trained personnel, using sophisticated equipment, saw the same thing it would have more credibility."
Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadron 2625 called their task Operation Last Look since it was their second and final search for the beast.
Volunteers from the St Mawgan-based unit include teachers, bank clerks and insurance staff, together with a nightclub bouncer and - it being Cornwall - a surfboard maker.
On Friday night they split into groups to erect hides across the fog-bound moor with chicken wire and bits of foliage. To catch their quarry, they were equipped with night goggles, a seismic intruder device which detects movement and a thermal imager to home in on the big cat's body heat.
The gunners kept in touch using walkie-talkies and although they had standard issue L85 rifles they had neither bullets nor blanks. But like so many other attempts to get to the bottom of myths and legends, Operation Last Look came to nothing.
By the time it came to an end yesterday morning, the team had sighted only a few moorland ponies and heard the odd unidentified rustle in the undergrowth. Sqn Ldr McCombe said:
"Sadly we did not see the Beast of Bodmin. But there were several moments when the electronic bleepers went off and the adrenalin began flowing. Those bursts of activity woke us all up and livened up the exercise."
The squadron's training has now come to an end, and the Beast of Bodmin can rest safely in its lair. But the techniques learned in the operation could prove vital.
"We are not just out there having fun and looking for cats," said Sqn Ldr McCombe.
"This is extremely valuable training for people who could be involved in important military operations. Last year 12 of the squadron were sent to support regular units in Kosovo and Kuwait. Some of the Kosovo gunners were detailed to guard helicopters from possible enemy raids."
Daily Express, 20 th March 2000
Wildlife experts are making a fresh attempt to unravel the mysteries of the so-called Beast of Bodmin. Zoologists, biologists and photographers are meeting at a conference in Plymouth to discuss whether big cats are roaming the countryside. An audience of 100 and a representative from Devon and Cornwall Police will listen to the experts' views. A monitoring committee to co-ordinate big cat sightings is expected to be set up at a later date.
Conference organiser Paul Crowther, a photography lecturer at Plymouth College of Further Education, said he was still neutral about whether big cats were on the loose. In 1996 he was called out to see footprints in a golf course bunker at Saltash, Cornwall, which fellow conference organiser, biologist Chris Moiser, believed were made by a big cat.
But Mr Crowther had yet to see a convincing photograph - while one of his students had even admitted being involved in faking a picture which appeared in the press.
"I have a reputation as a debunker of images," he said.
"A lot of people say they have seen it and all I am saying is 'Prove it'. The problem with looking at images is a lot of people see what they want to see."
There have been numerous reported sightings of big cats in the west country in recent years, including one by a group of Cornwall county councillors who said they saw an animal up to six feet long near St Austell.
Believers say the creatures could be descended from exotic pets released after the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in 1976, which made it illegal to keep some creatures without a licence.
Press Association, 24 th March 2000
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