EVIDENCE pointing towards the existence of a large non-domestic cat in the Yorkshire Dales continues to mount.
Julie Penrose, 60, was walking with her partner and friends on Pen-y-ghent when they came across large paw prints in the snow, and immediately thought they were unusual.
“As soon as we them we thought they belonged to a big cat,” Mrs Penrose, who lives in Colne in Lancashire, said.
“They are quite heavy footprints, presumably from a large animal and it had pushed the snow down.
“The prints also seemed to be rather fresh and were staggered along the hillside.”
Mrs Penrose said the prints seemed to be in sets of two, rather than four, and suggested it could be from a fast moving animal.
She said: “We went across the top of the mountain and then cut down the side, walking through heather and found the prints.
“I have never seen any before but they were big and definitely weren’t a dog.
"It was intriguing and we had a laugh about what it could have been, but we were thankful we didn’t meet the animal!”
The Westmorland Gazette sent Mrs Penrose’s photographs to Danny Bamping from the British Big Cat Society, who confirmed her initial belief.
He said: “The prints are definitely from a large cat - possibly a puma or lynx. They are distinctive as there are no claw marks.
He added: “We have had a lot of sightings in the Yorkshire Dales and Moors area in the last month or so and it is important people tell us about them as sightings are usually few and far between.”
He said the society was aware of people releasing large, exotic cats into the wild in the late 1970s and early 1980s which could explain increased sightings.
BIG CAT SIGHTINGS
l In December 2008, John Allan from Ingleton saw a large black cat on the village’s football field, on his way home from dropping his two children at school.
l Retired head teacher Jeni Boothman saw a big cat in August 2009 as she travelled Crook Road from Gilpin Lodge. She described it as black, with a smooth coat and long tail that curled up at the end.
l In August 2006 housewife Marilyn Salisbury, of Rowan Tree Crescent, Kendal, told how she had heard the cries of a puma while a neighbour told how a creature bared its teeth and growled at her after she confronted what she initially believed to be a black Labrador in her garden.
l Father and son Michael and Jason Yorke claim to have seen a black cat near Holme in October 2003. They said it was black with green eyes and had a large head.
l A 38-year-old Kendal woman reported seeing a big black cat near Burton Services on the M6 in March 2003. She said she was driving towards the services from Lancaster when she spotted a big black animal running in a field which she believed was twice as big as a black labrador and could not be mistaken for a domestic animal.