BIG cats such as ‘black panthers’ have been ‘spotted’ been roaming around Cumbria and allegedly hurting sheep, it has been revealed.

The reports can be exclusively revealed by The Westmorland Gazette following a Freedom of Information request.

Since 2017, there have been eight sightings of big cats in the county, which have been reported to police by concerned residents. Three of these reports were made in the south of the county.

The three reported in south Cumbria happened in March and May 2017 as well as July of 2018.

Residents described, in calls to police, seeing what they believed to ‘a big cat hurting their sheep and roaming around his property’ in March 2017.

Then in May of 2017, another resident reported they had ‘seen a black panther sat on a wall.’

The caller said it was shaped like a large cat, and had a long tail, and a large head, police said.

The last reported sighting in 2018 in south Cumbria also saw a large black cat which the caller believed to be a panther.

In each instance the log was closed by the police after there was no further sightings.

In March of 2017 the wildlife officer was informed of the report, which was the standard response from the police in complaints of this nature.

In response to the FOI, a police spokesman said: “We wish to reassure the public that the reports of this nature are extremely rare and all sightings are investigated.

“We work closely with farmers and community groups to address any concerns.”

The other reported cases dated to April 2017 and November 2018 in West Cumbria, and August 2017, September 2017, and March 2019 in the north of the county.

More calls came after there was coverage in the national press on ‘big cats in Cumbria’ back in April 2020 following a picture of a muscular black cat that was circulating online on social media.

This was after a big cat activist believed that the county was rife with the animals.

It is likely that there have been more potential sightings of big cats in the county by members of the public, however this Freedom of Information request solely focuses on those reported to police and any action they took.