Is a big cat prowling the hills?
Concern is growing that a big cat could be on the prowl in the Lake District after a number of supposed sightings in one of England's best-loved beauty spots.
There have been more than 40 reported sightings of the so-called Beast of Cumbria in recent years, with a midwife saying she spotted a “panther-like creature” while hiking near Ambleside in March.
Sightings of the “beast” have also been made at least 11 other locations in the picture-postcard holiday destination, which is visited by tens of thousands of tourists each year.
A retired police chief said he had spotted a large black cat on the embankment of the Settle to Carlisle railway near Appleby last weekend.
A mum planted cameras in Longtown last week following a spate of sightings. In 2013, mum-of-four Sharon Larkin, 41, found a distinctive paw print, its size markedly bigger than that of a cat or even a large dog. She has described seeing the cat’s “piercing yellow eyes” and “swishing tail”.
Danny Bamping from the British Big Cats Society, which receives reports of sightings and and does research into big cats, said: “There has been a lot of data coming from Cumbria of sightings in the last few months. We had reports of a big cat encounter last year, which we investigated.
”The landscape, and the availability of food in Cumbria would be ideal for a big cat. It would be like going on holiday for a lynx.“
But he said the latest photo by former police chief superintendent Kevin Pit, while ”interesting“, could have been a dog, a cardboard cut out or even a bench.
”We’d need more information,“ he said.
”Perhaps the policeman could go back and take more photographs with a sense of scale. It needs more investigating – a bit of detective work.“
Ramblers The Beast of Cumbria has a long way to go before reaching the notoriety of the Beast of Bodmin in Cornwall, which has made headlines for 30 years and has reportedly killed livestock.
But hardy ramblers who wander Lakeland’s mountains are unworried about the Beast of Cumbria and vowed not to let it spoil their enjoyment of the fells.
Malcolm Petyt from the Lake District Ramblers said: ”We’ll be on the lookout for the Beast of Cumbria, but we’re not going to let it put us off our walking.“