Get with the beasts: a big game hunter's guide to modern Britain

Reports of a big cat going wild near Stroud only scratch the surface. Tom Peck and Joshua Carroll investigate


1. Cougar

When PC Chris Swallow, a Ministry of Defence dog handler, filmed a sleek, black, metre-long cat in Argyll, Scotland, in 2009, he was convinced it was a black panther.

But locals insisted that it was the Coulport Cougar, which is said to have been spotted several times in the area since 2005.

Click here for the full graphic: A big game hunter's guide to modern Britain.

2. Lioness

In 2010, academic and former mountain ranger, Dr Bob Sharp, reported seeing a 5ft-long, beige-coloured creature prowling in the Kilsyth Hills in Stirlingshire. He concluded that the creature was a lioness. Experts said that this was “not impossible” as the hills are rich in prey, such as lamb and deer. There have been no further reported sightings.

3. Giant rats

In Bradford, West Yorkshire, 2½ ft-long rats have been spotted on the Ravenscliffe estate, even attracting hunters from outside the area. The Mammal Society claims they are in fact coypu - large South American rodents that may have escaped from a farm in East Anglia.

4. Siberian chipmunks

Firmly established in parts of the South and the Midlands. In Wolverhampton, a young mother was attacked by a pair of them in 2009. As well as inflicting a nasty bite, the creatures can carry the sometimes fatal Lyme disease, and other highly contagious viruses.

5. The Stroud deer-eater

Scientists are still analysing DNA samples to test claims that the creature that mutilated a deer at Woodchester Park, Stroud, this week, was a big cat such as a panther or a puma – which could be connected to an albino “big cat” seen in nearby Nailsworth a few days earlier.

6. Man-eating sharks

Repeated sightings of shark species off the Cornish coast, from a mako (Maori for “man-eater) in 2009 to a large oceanic white tip near St Ives in 2011 have been reported. A series of alleged sightings of a great white off Crackington Haven in 1999 remain unconfirmed.

7. The Beast of Bodmin

There have been many reports since 1983 of a black big cat that farmers on Bodmin Moor blame for slaughtering livestock. A 20-second video, released in 1998, may or may not have confirmed the existence of such a beast. But a 1995 Ministry of Agriculture report insisted that there was no evidence of big cats living in the area.

8. Wild boar

Extinct in the UK since the 17th century, boar returned to the British wild in the 1980s after a handful escaped from farms. The population could now be as high as 1,000, spread through seven English counties, notably Dorset. Hunters have been culling boars, which are considered pests, since 2007. Landowners are not obliged to record a kill.

9. Black panthers

Repeated searches by police marksmen have failed to locate the big, dark cat – assumed to be a melanistic jaguar or leopard (ie, a black panther) – reported in Sydenham, south-east London, in 2002 and 2005. But Tony Holder, who required hospital treatment after being mauled by the beast in his back garden, has no doubt that it was real. Since the life-expectancy of such a creature is about 12 years, it is probably still around.

10. Scorpions

Venomous yellow-tail scorpions – accidentally introduced from Italy – have lived in the walls of Sheerness Dock for hundreds of years. Recent warm summers have boosted their numbers to 13,000. Their sting, luckily, is not lethal.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas