Wildlife expert Ian Bond says big cats prevalent across North
Mar 2 2010 by Tony Henderson, The Journal
WILDLIFE expert Ian Bond will tonight explore the conviction that panthers are living wild in the North East. Ian, who is Hartlepool Council’s ecologist, has been logging big cat sightings for the last 10 years. A member of the Northumbria Mammal group, he has recorded around 150 sightings which have been made at close quarters. Tonight at 7pm in South Shields library, Ian will give a public talk on the big cats speculation. The most recent sighting was two weeks ago near Craster in Northumberland as a fisherman was returning home in the early hours of the morning when what looked like a big cat ran out 25 yards in front of his car. Ian said that hotspots for sightings, usually of a black panther-type big cat, included the Hexham-Consett zone and Sedgefield-Trimdon area in County Durham. He said: “I record sightings made by people from fairly close quarters and I tend to dismiss those which could be some other creature. “I am convinced there is something out there. I have no doubts whatsoever that there is the odd animal.” Sightings had been made by “reputable” observers such as policemen and an ecologist who twice had close-range encounters in Weardale. That sightings have been made over a wide area, from Berwick to Hartlepool, suggested that there is more than one animal. It is believed that the animals could be escapees or had been released after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act made it necessary for big cat owners to apply for a licence and regular vets’ examinations. Ian said that food for wild big cats would be no problem, with plentiful supplies of prey like roe deer and rabbits. “The issue is whether these cats can find each other and breed, and we will know the answer over time,” he said. Notable encounters have included a panther mother and cub at Elwick, near Hartlepool, and two anglers on the River Skerne near Darlington who came across a big cat. “They ran in one direction and the animal ran off in the other,” said Ian. R
Recent sightings have included:
A big cat 2ft in height at Souter Point in South Shields; A man walking at Croft, near Darlington, who saw a deer heading towards him at speed, pursued by a large black creature a couple of feet behind; A woman walking her dogs beside the river near Morpeth when a large black animal ran in front of them and scaled a wall; A big cat of around 5ft in length was seen between Newton Moor and Longframlington in Northumberland. The observer returned to the area the next day and found a deer leg bone.
I have met Ian Bond. I found him serious about his work, knowledgeable and believable. Both myself and my daughter were impressed with his demeanour and honesty. I hope he finds proof that cannot be disputed.
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