A BAFFLED hotel worker who woke up with mysterious injuries after being knocked unconscious in remote woodland believes he may have been jumped on by a wild cat.

Nich Boden has little recollection of the encounter near to Tarn Hows Wood, between Coniston and Hawkshead, and was only persuaded to visit the village's chemist after colleagues told him of the Gazette's recent stories on large cat sightings.

The incident unfolded when the 26-year-old, who works at the Queens Head in Hawkshead, felt 'something hit him' as he walked home from a friend's house in the pitch black.

Thirty minutes later he woke up with a deep five-inch gouge on his left shoulder and what appears to be four claw marks on his forearm.

"I know it's all a bit far-fetched but it seems very mysterious and not beyond the realms of possibility," said Mr Boden, who is originally from Rochdale.

"I know the woods quite well so have no problem walking in the dark. All I really remember was being hit from my front right and because I smacked my head when I fell it was all a bit hazy after.

"It wasn't until I got back to Hawkshead that I realised how bad it was."

Val Edwards, joint-owner of the inn and restaurant, said: "I was very concerned for him. I looked at his injuries and asked him: 'How an earth did you get those?'.

"There's plenty of deer out there to keep wild cats alive. When I walk my dogs I will be looking over my shoulder now."

The Gazette sent the pictures of his injuries to Danny Bamping, founder of the Big Cat Society.

He said he could not determine from the images whether they were caused by a big cat and was planning to visit Cumbria to speak with Mr Boden this weekend and investigate further.

South Lakes vet Iain Richards cast doubt on the encounter, saying: "Any wild cat will almost certainly do a runner rather than attack.

"It does make you wonder when you see four parallel scratch marks but I think the most likely thing is that he has fallen onto brambles and it's just a coincidence.

"It appears the deepest of the four marks is closest to his elbow. Generally with cat scratches the deepest would be in the middle."

Tom Smith, a Scottish GP who has written dozens of medical books, added: "Animals generally attack from the back. The spaces between the claws are too large unless the cat was the size of a lion and no cat I know of produces single slash marks."

Mr Boden sustained the injuries in the early hours of Thursday morning. It wasn't until he arrived home that he realised the extent of his injuries.

He went into work on Friday and was told by colleagues of the Gazette's story a fortnight ago about an apparent sighting of a caracal, close to where Mr Boden was.

He visited the chemist in Hawkshead where he was told he should have had stitches and was given saline solution to help the wound heal.

"Everyone who has seen the scars has suggested I was attacked by a wild animal," he explained. "I laughed it off at first until one of my colleagues pointed out the Gazette's story on a wild cat being spotted in between Coniston and Hawkshead, very close to where the incident happened, very close to the time that you reported a wild cat being spotted in the area.

"I am still covered in these scars, some of which will probably be permanent, but I just thought this is highly coincidental, considering that a lot of the scars I have could have been caused by a large cat."

Luke Barley, the National Trust’s ranger for Coniston and the surrounding area said: “We care for Tarn Hows and the surrounding landscape 365 days a year, but we’ve never seen any signs of a wild cat, nor have we had any reports from anyone that they’ve seen a wild cat.

"Tarn Hows is a beautiful and safe place for a walk, whether by day or night."