Claim: DNA evidence confirms existence of black panthers in the British countryside

For a more reasonable height of the patch of 60-80 cm, we instead get down to 20-25 cm shoulder height, and that just happens to be the size of a completely normal house cat.
To drive this point home: both boxes are the same dimensions, and the black cat fits comfortably within.
SmartSelect_20231019-170013_Samsung Internet.jpg

For the "leopard" to be twice as big as the cat, it'd have to be at least 3 times as far as the cat, and it doesn't look like it was. (Do we have a map earlier in the thread?)

As presented by Shell Lee, the image of the "normal cat" is smaller than the image of the "black panther" even though the black panther is more distant. Checkmate, Skeptics.
The point is that the cat is not smaller than the black animal, relative to the size of the bush. It is bigger.

See also https://www.metabunk.org/threads/cl...-in-the-british-countryside.12957/post-290202 and following for a nicer comparison.
 
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To drive this point home: both boxes are the same dimensions, and the black cat fits comfortably within.
View attachment 63573
For the "leopard" to be twice as big as the cat, it'd have to be at least 3 times as far as the cat, and it doesn't look like it was. (Do we have a map earlier in the thread?)


The point is that the cat is not smaller than the black animal, relative to the size of the bush. It is bigger.

See also https://www.metabunk.org/threads/cl...-in-the-british-countryside.12957/post-290202 and following for a nicer comparison.

I think you are misunderstanding @Z.W. Wolf's point. Read on and his post explains why the presentation is deceptive.

The crop is misleading and suggests that the "small cat" is in the foreground whereas the "big cat" was much further away.

But in fact, the crop shows just a small part of the image, all of which is a long way away from the camera - in fact, to a good approximation, they are the SAME distance away from the camera, so if they appear the same size, they ARE the same size.

Both cats were a long way from where the camera was located, as the zoomed-out view reveals:

1697971325530.png
 
Here we go again;

The Beast of Cumbria - Big cat DNA confirmed on sheep carcass​

https://www.nwemail.co.uk/news/24316032.big-cat-dna-confirmed-cumbria/

The basic story is Sharon Larkin Snowden, variously described as a p/t construction worker or experienced big cat investigator has announced as an exclusive in the regional comic paper that DNA has been found on sheep carcass.



Her initial contact with said carcass was in Nov 2023 after reports from local farmers of 'unusual activity' on their land.
She claims her own sighting, of what became 'The Beast of Cumbria'

The 52-year-old part-time construction worker was first told about alleged sightings of the so-called Beast of Cumbria in November, when local farmers noticed “unusual activity” on their land. But it wasn’t until later in the month that she claims to have had her own sighting.


She stumbled upon the carcass of a sheep, which looked “different to how sheep are killed by fox or other predators”.
“It looked freshly killed,” she said. “I videoed myself walking around the local area to look for the cat in case it was still around. I wanted to cover myself in case something happened, God forbid. I took photos and went back to the car and then when I turned around the corner I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

“I thought it was a dog, and it took a few seconds for my brain to realise it wasn’t a dog, it was a big cat. It was a leopard. It must have heard me coming toward the sheep and then ran away.”

Since then Larkin-Snowden has been tracking the cat’s movements every day, responding to calls from local farmers who report similar sightings. She regularly updates a Facebook group called Big Cats in Cumbria, which has posts from others who claim to have made sightings.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...an-leopard-sighting-fails-to-convince-experts


Odd, she now claims finding DNA but mentions noting about sampling for such in the reports from her 'stumble upon the carcass'.
We can only speculate methodology she used for the collection and storage of these samples. That and the questionable ethics of a commercial set up analysing them without a sound methodology.

In the Guardian report, her initial claim is questioned by Dr Eril Droge of Oxford Uni
Dr Dröge remains critical of the claims made by Larkin-Snowden and Minter. He said: “Another flag, for me, is that she’s been actively investigating them in the area for 25 years, but only finds some now. Where were they before? Where were the killed sheep before? Where were the tracks?”
Perhaps the answers to Dr Droge's questions are ; Gloucester. Gloucester. From Junction 14 on the M5 to junction 42 on the M6
as it fancied a break in the Lake District to get away from it all.


Hot on the long black tail of the Gloucestershire DNA claimed by Matthew Everett's Panthera Declassified , it's a bit convenient.
 
Odd, she now claims finding DNA but mentions noting about sampling for such in the reports from her 'stumble upon the carcass'.
Might have been her hedging her bets, i.e. if it had turned up nothing, she could've kept silent about it.

Or it could've been a sample acquired at the zoo.

Or there could really be a big cat around now. Over here, I'd think "wolf", though a large number of dead sheep turn up with dog DNA.
 
Apologies, the Mail article cited previously is partially hidded and the full article with more detail is available in the sister publication.

She passed three swabs to expert and producer of Big Cat Conversations podcast Rick Minter who sent the samples to a specialist lab at the University of Warwick.

The university's School of Life Sciences centre offers a pioneering DNA analysis service utilised by many ecological consultancies, private individuals and wildlife enthusiasts.

The team, led by Professor Robin Allaby, tested the swabs and found that one indicated a panthera result, meaning it is from the genus of big cats, with two yielding fox DNA.

"The section we have sequenced is distinct to the group Panthera, which includes all the big cats - lions, tigers, panthers, leopards.

"There was only a very small amount of DNA present, which again is not surprising. So we need more data from more samples to pin it down to a specific species."

https://www.thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk/news/24316032.big-cat-dna-confirmed-cumbria/
 
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https://www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/mammals/big-cat-british-countryside

This is the first time that big cat DNA has been found on a carcass in the UK. The analysis was carried out at a laboratory at the University of Warwick run by Prof Robin Allaby.

Allaby told BBC Wildlife that it was very hard to lift DNA from swabs taken from carcasses but there was no doubt in this case. “It makes me a convert [to the existence of non-native big cats in the UK],” Allaby said. “Until now, I have remained open-minded, I think that’s my job as a scientist.”
Allaby has previously identified a bit of a claw that was sent to him from someone who wished to remain anonymous from the north of England as also belong to a cat in the Panthera genus.
In the most recent case, the sheep carcass was discovered by Cumbrian resident Sharon Larkin-Snowden in an undisclosed upland location. Larkin-Snowden told Rick Minter’s Big Cat Conversations podcast that she chanced across the dead sheep one morning in October last year.

Larkin-Snowden said the carcass was fresh and that she had disturbed whatever had been feeding on, which she then saw running towards a stone wall before disappearing over it.
Proffessor Robin Allaby specializes in the evolution of plant domestication. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/lifesci/people/rallaby/

There was a similar separate report 2 years ago of "big cat" DNA being found:
https://www.discoverwildlife.com/news/new-dna-evidence-confirms-presence-of-big-cats-in-the-uk

The hair was collected following a sheep attack on a farm in Gloucestershire in 2022. A forensic laboratory then analysed it using mitochondrial DNA methods to ascertain a 99.9% match to the leopard species Panthera Pardus.

The investigation in 2017 began when the Gloucestershire farmer found one of his lambs dead. Through social media, documentary filmmaker Matthew Everett got in touch with the farm and came to investigate the site. Everett’s team took swabs and sent them to Warwick University for testing, with no results. However, the jawbone of the sheep, which had toothmarks in, was sent to the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester for analysis. The indentations were confirmed as potentially belonging to the molar and pre-molar of a big cat.
This time, the team recovered the clumps of hair and sent them to a laboratory for Mitochondrial DNA analysis. They were found to be a 99.9% match to the leopard Panthera Pardus.

The laboratory has requested to remain anonymous.

Everett’s forthcoming documentary Panthera Britannia Declassified will investigate claims of big cat sightings throughout Britain.

“It's taken five years for the production team to find such evidence and film its journey from collection to analysis,” he has said.

“There is a great deal of ‘secondary evidence’ for these cats, such as consistent witness reports, but hard evidence like DNA is hard to get, so the contribution from this documentary is very helpful.”


Everett’s production company Dragonfly Films is currently pursuing broadcasting options, however an earlier version of the film is available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Vimeo.

This all contradicts reputable looking sources I could find on the UK's wild cat species (native or otherwise), which only mentions the Scottish Wildcat: https://www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/mammals/big-cat-british-countryside

What to make of this? Does this prove that big cats are roaming the UK and nobody got any photos?
 
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If they exist these cats are not native wild animals of course, they are likely escapees and currently they are not well known or documented to breed so they would not appear on current UK lists, there are invasive escapee sourced animals like mink that maintain populations based on escaped/released animals, but as yet it does not seem to apply to big cats.

If the Leopard DNA was present on a real UK countryside sourced carcass then extensive camera trapping in the area would likely reveal the animal. Another possibility is the 'faking' of the carcass sample as in the researchers either knowingly or otherwise sent a sample in that was sourced elsewhere than on a real discovered carcass from the UK countryside.

It's possible that some undocumented cats escape or are released and live for while in the wild in the UK, it's probably less likely there is a self sustaining breeding population without evidence emerging from the wildlife/gamekeeping communities.
 
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Completely anecdotal, but growing up in the early 90's a friend's family kept sheep, and knew another local farmer who had found a sheep carcass up a tree on his property. There are no native UK species that ought to be able to pull that off. This was within a couple of miles of where the "Inkberrow Panther" had supposedly been seen.

What to make of this? Does this prove that big cats are roaming the UK and nobody got any photos?

There are plenty of purported photos, but they've always been just low-information enough that it's ambiguous whether they show Big Cats, or just cats that are big.
 
Completely anecdotal, but growing up in the early 90's a friend's family kept sheep, and knew another local farmer who had found a sheep carcass up a tree on his property. There are no native UK species that ought to be able to pull that off. This was within a couple of miles of where the "Inkberrow Panther" had supposedly been seen.



There are plenty of purported photos, but they've always been just low-information enough that it's ambiguous whether they show Big Cats, or just cats that are big.
If the anecdote is true, and no fakery involved, the finding of a carcass up a tree would be almost definitive evidence of a panther or panther-like big cat. (Ocelots are good climbers, so that might be another candidate.) Of course these are not native UK species. Conceivably a large native raptor (like a Golden Eagle or buzzard) might fly up with a lamb or part of a carcass and leave it in the fork of a tree, and we know how anecdotes tend to improve with the telling. Golden Eagles have bred in Cumbria in recent years but are thought to be absent at the moment. White-Tailed Eagles are present in Western Scotland, and are occasionally reported as visitors in Cumbria.

I remain very skeptical about the 'big cat' claims. A big cat needs to feed at least every few weeks, and a big cat in the wild - let alone a breeding population - ought to leave a lot more tangible evidence than one carcass every year or two. If they are eating significant numbers of sheep farmers would notice. Not to mention paw prints, hair scrapings, and of course droppings and urine. (People sometimes buy lion poop from zoos and use it to scare pests away from their gardens. I don't know if leopard droppings have the same effect.) Dogs trained to sniff out big cats could surely resolve the issue pretty quickly.

We should also not discount fakery. If leopard DNA really has been found on a sheep carcass, I would wonder whether someone has deliberately fed it to a zoo animal and then 'found' the carcass in the countryside, though in the recently reported case the 'witness' claims to have seen the predator in the act of eating it.
 
It interests me that the Mystery Big Cat phenomenon, complete with the trappings of cryptid folklore elsewhere, seems to be largely British. Though in the US reports of mountain lions in areas where they are extinct are a thing now -- eg:
External Quote:
“I saw a mountain lion, and that’s just the way it is,” said Marchibroda, a dentist in her 60s living in Afton, Virginia. “It was great, probably one of the most exciting experiences of my life, and I feel very fortunate.”

Heart still pounding, Marchibroda tracked down a ranger near Mathews Arm Campground to report what she had just witnessed. A seasoned hiker who’s lived in Virginia since the 1970s and is deeply familiar with the area’s wildlife, she’s confident in what she saw. Others, including the park ranger she met that day and wildlife experts she’s reached out to since the sighting, are skeptical.

“They had their minds set and there was nothing that was going to change their minds. Even with all these numerous sightings they still dug their heels in, and that was pretty frustrating,” she said of the officials at agencies like the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Resource. “They initially didn’t want to admit that I saw one, and they were calling it a UFO—an unidentified furry object. I really took offense to that.”

Like a number of other people in her community—a hunter who caught the tail end of a cat on his deer cam and a Presbyterian minister in Batesville whose neighbor saw one drinking out of a pond, to name a couple—Marchibroda knows that she saw a mountain lion, and she wants state and national wildlife agencies to take these sightings seriously. There are “just too many of these stories” for her to believe that the cats are extinct.

“These are believable people,” she said. “This isn’t just hearsay.”

From a wildlife biology perspective, though, it’s going to take more than a story—no matter how convincing it may be—to determine whether these cats are there and where they’re coming from.
Source: https://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/go-outside/are-mountain-lions-back-in-the-blue-ridge/
(Note the "I know what I saw" and the "these are believable people" argument, a la UFO believers/experiencers.)

I've found isolated cases of, say, a panther prowling the roofs of a town in France, which was then captured and found to belong to a resident when it climbed back into the window of its apartment and was captured there by authorities.
External Quote:
Authorities were alerted, and police threw up a cordon around the building before the ink-black cat slipped through a window to an apartment believed to belong to its owner.

There, a team was able to trap the panther and a veterinarian put it to sleep with a tranquilizer dart. After being put into a cage, the animal was handed over to the care of France's Animal Protection League, who described it as "a baby" and "not at all aggressive."

During its escapade, the panther entered another flat where a 15-year-old girl saw it descending the stairs. La Voix du Nord reported that the teenager believed she had been hallucinating after having medication for the removal of wisdom teeth.

The six-month-old female cat — about the small size of a labarador and weighing about 20 kilograms — was moved to a zoo in the town of Maubeuge on Thursday. She was set to stay for one or two days before being moved on to an animal sanctuary.

The animal's owner appeared to have escaped through the same window, possibly fearing arrest for illegal ownership of a wild animal.
https://www.dw.com/en/black-panther-spotted-prowling-french-rooftops/a-50501844

That is not the same thing as mysterious big cats sighted repeatedly over the years but never captured, with only claimed tufts of hair and unconvincing photos turning up (sounds a bit like bigfoot, yeah?) And the connection to livestock predation is similar to cryptid/UFO lore elsewhere, such as "UFOs mutilated my cow" or "chupacabra ate my sheep" explanations for livestock loss have in other parts of the world, with the difference that big cats at least are known to exist -- just not in Britain.

After an admittedly cursory search for other examples, it looks very provisionally like the rise of the Out Of Place Big Cat Population as a part of national folklore may be uniquely British, with the exception of something similar in eastern North America, where at least the big cats being seen lived at one time and there is a plausible source of a re-appearing population in animals from the west moving back into old territory.

(Caveat: I only speak English, if there are similar reports over decades in non-English-speaking countries, I might miss them. It may be significant that the only other similar thing I could find, the eastern mountain lions, was also in an English speaking country.)
 
From the OP:
External Quote:
This time, the team recovered the clumps of hair and sent them to a laboratory for Mitochondrial DNA analysis. They were found to be a 99.9% match to the leopard Panthera Pardus.

The laboratory has requested to remain anonymous.
Note that this time, they reportly pinned it down to a single species, not just panthera.
 
That quote is from the 2022 DNA analysis of hairs, the new one is from a carcass.

DNA samples have been traced to Panthera before, the issues have often been the source of those samples, i.e. no verification that they were not trimmed / taken from rugs/trophies etc and added to carcasses

ie. found and submitted by "big cat enthusiasts" with no verifiable chain.
 
After an admittedly cursory search for other examples, it looks very provisionally like the rise of the Out Of Place Big Cat Population as a part of national folklore may be uniquely British, with the exception of something similar in eastern North America, where at least the big cats being seen lived at one time and there is a plausible source of a re-appearing population in animals from the west moving back into old territory.

Cursory indeed, I can look up specific claims if people think it is worth it but for years there have been rumours of Big Cats on the fringes of Australian Suburbia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Mountains_panther
Very anecdotal, but every semi-viral facebook post I've seen claiming to finally have definitive footage of the blue mountains panther has just looked like a kind of a big house cat to me.
Australia is a part of the commonwealth so perhaps this explains why we've got our own spin on something that is otherwise uniquely British
 
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I remain very skeptical about the 'big cat' claims. A big cat needs to feed at least every few weeks, and a big cat in the wild - let alone a breeding population - ought to leave a lot more tangible evidence than one carcass every year or two. If they are eating significant numbers of sheep farmers would notice.
Sheep are easy prey if unattended, but if a big cat were to take one it may well have been attributed to dogs, so cat-kills would have been under-reported. I would also suspect that a large cat might have an extensive territory, and that within that range there may be plenty of wild things to eat as well, especially in what is described as an "upland location" in which farms may border on mountainous land. In short, I don't think you can discount a big cat based on the number of known sheep kills in an area that may look like this.
IMG_2591.jpeg
 
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Does this prove that big cats are roaming the UK and nobody got any photos?

Not really, though it might be considered evidence. It does prove there's a source of Leopard DNA in Britain, but we already know this:

External Quote:

CFZ [Centre for Fortean Zoology] also revealed that hairs found in woods near Woolfardisworthy had been positively identified as those of a leopard.

“We had them DNA tested by Durham University and they confirmed they were leopard. This is proof that there was, as of last summer, at least one leopard apparently wild in the woodlands of North Devon,” said Mr Downes.
Content from External Source
(My emphasis).
Not knowing where Woolfardisworthy is, I did a quick search; there's a Wikipedia page "Woolfardisworthy, Torridge" here,
which states
The Centre for Fortean Zoology is based here.
Content from External Source
What an astonishing coincidence! The very village (pop. 1123 in 2001) where leopard DNA had been found is where
The Centre for Fortean Zoology is based!
Maybe there's a prosaic explanation for this amazing stroke of luck, but I can't think of one ;)
Post #6, from the thread Claim: DNA evidence confirms existence of black panthers in the British countryside

I think the CFZ find of hair with leopard DNA almost literally in their own back yard stretches credibility (as did their later find, in their own filing, of the "best ever photo of a British big cat", which turned out to be a doctored image from a US poster seller).

-So people with an interest in "Alien Big Cats" in Britain have, or at least had, leopard hair (obvs. a source of leopard DNA), and arguably a track record of being, how shall I say this, extraordinarily lucky with their finds.

As well as dung which some zoos might provide to gardeners (mentioned by @DavidB66) there must be a few leopard skin rugs etc. still kicking around, and tatty examples of leopard skin aprons worn by British military bandsmen are collected and sold
View attachment 69349
(the "origins" story is interesting but maybe inaccurate), this skin dated c. 1930, Colonial Soldier "The Sport of Collecting" site.

External Quote:
The analysis was carried out at a laboratory at the University of Warwick run by Prof Robin Allaby.
Professor Allaby seems OK; @serpentdebunker provided a useful link https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/lifesci/people/rallaby/
but it has to be asked, why not ask a scientist/ academic who studies big cats or European fauna (not flora) to examine the evidence?

External Quote:
Allaby has previously identified a bit of a claw that was sent to him from someone who wished to remain anonymous from the north of England as also belong to a cat in the Panthera genus.
This will have to be anecdotal, but as a kid I remember some young men- usually rocker or biker types- wore pendants of (claimed) big cat canines or claws. I guess the CITES treaty, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CITES, and maybe local UK legislation has (rightly IMO) reduced this, but wouldn't be surprised if a few leopard claws were still doing the rounds.

I remain very skeptical about the 'big cat' claims. A big cat needs to feed at least every few weeks, and a big cat in the wild - let alone a breeding population - ought to leave a lot more tangible evidence than one carcass every year or two. If they are eating significant numbers of sheep farmers would notice.
I think this has to be right. English farms aren't on the scale of large American or Canadian farms, or Australian / NZ sheep stations. Even a small number of sheep missing would be noticed very quickly.
Cumbria is largely rural, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumbria, its largest upland area is the Lake District, which inspired the Lake Poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge. Lots of holidaymakers and hikers visit the area. Scouts/ Guides and other groups of children routinely camp in the Lake District and other locations in Cumbria without a single can of leopard repellent.

Cumbria also contains part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, setting of the popular TV soap Emmerdale, which hasn't had an alien big cat storyline yet AFAIK (though it has had a hurricane, a widebody cargo jet crash in the village, a serial murderer, a leading character in a relationship with an underage girl, a character grooming her stepson etc. etc.)

Sheep are easy prey if unattended, but if a big cat were to take one it may well have been attributed to dogs, so cat-kills would have been under-reported. I would also suspect that a large cat might have an extensive territory, and that within that range there may be plenty of wild things to eat as well
Sheep are such easy prey, and so common, I think its unlikely a leopard or other big cat would waste energy pursuing wild game. They don't know that taking sheep will attract human attention.
IIRC there are earlier posts here indicating that some sheep/ cattle kills interpreted as ABC kills by some are in fact due to dogs (a real problem) and perhaps opportunistic post-mortem predation by dogs, foxes.

[Edited to add: Was writing this before threads were merged, so there's a couple of links or references that lead back here]
 
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Interesting overview of Big Cats in Britain, which establishes (unless the good folks at Webinar Vet's VetTalk are having us on, which I don't suspect) that there HAVE been a few escaped or released pets captures over the years:

https://thewebinarvet.com/blog/british-big-cats-truth

Most rinteresting, to me, are these bits:
External Quote:
Reports of wild beasts roaming the wilderness have been a part of British folklore for centuries, but it was approximately 40 years ago that the big cat theory began in earnest. In 1976, the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act had made it mandatory to obtain a licence for keeping animals such as exotic big cats. It is therefore probably not a coincidence that the following few years saw a large upsurge in people reporting seeing big cats out in the wild, as unscrupulous owners who could not be bothered meeting the requirements for a licence simply set their animals loose. It was also around this time that the first stories of the Beast of Exmoor, which fits the description of a leopard, began circulating, while accounts of the Beast of Bodmin Moor originate in 1978.
External Quote:
Then, two years later, the big cat conspiracy got its first piece of evidence. In 1980, Scottish farmer Ted Noble was becoming increasingly perturbed by livestock deaths caused by a wild animal. He decided to lay down a cage trap to capture the creature responsible ... One can imagine him rubbing his eyes and blinking widely, dumbfounded. He could be forgiven for being slightly bewildered, as pumas aren’t animals Scottish farmers usually have to deal with.

The puma was taken to the Highland Wildlife Park, where she was named Felicity and became a star attraction until she died five years later. Felicity remains notable for being one of the few confirmed cases of a non-indigenous big cat found in the wild in Britain, whose origin remains unknown. The most likely scenario put forward is she was deliberately released by somebody who had bought a cute puma kitten and was not able to handle the adult she grew into to. Vets noted that she seemed tame, allowing people to touch her and eating food offered to her by hand.
External Quote:
So, is it safe to assume that the British big cats are a tall tale? The answer to that is probably “yes”. While there have been a few cases of big cats running wild, they are almost always confirmed to be escaped from captivity and are recaptured, albeit sometimes only after a few weeks. With the lack of evidence being overwhelming, it seems reasonable to say that other sightings can be explained away as misidentification. Nevertheless, the legend of the British big cats doesn’t show signs of fading any time soon.
Passing reference is also made to the thylacine sightings, the MB threads about that are HERE and HERE.


(Edited to restore links that somehow got dropped.)
 
To me, the most important thing to take away is that of all the scientists interviewed in the Guardian piece, the one who is an actual expert on large predators such as lions and leopards says the picture of the carcass is not from a big cat kill:
“The carcass shown in the pictures isn’t touched by a big cat, let alone one with a large cub. All ribs are intact, and the carcass is picked clean, even by insects. You’d never see that with the kills of big cats.”

He argues that it would be easy to tell if big cats were in the UK countryside, as the impact would be larger than a handful of sheep carcasses. “If a big cat would roam in England, you’d expect to see clusters of sheep kills. A big cat in a confined space, like a field, with sheep, very quickly would lead to many of those sheep being dead. That wouldn’t go unnoticed.”
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...an-leopard-sighting-fails-to-convince-experts

And this is the crux of it. That big cat-hunter may think she is an expert on how kills made by big cats look, but she is basing her opinion on data that is almost certainly mostly not big cat kills. The actual expert says it is not a big cat kill. There are thousands of documented cases from places where big cats actually live. They and their habits are fairly well-studied for the most part. These sightings taking place in many parts of the country over decades would indicate that there is either some people regularly releasing big cats for whatever reason or a breeding population. Both premises are very unlikely and a breeding population going undetected for so long is almost impossible. Sure, there may be people illegally importing big cat cubs as exotic pets and then releasing them when they can't handle them anymore, but they would be terrible hunters, not having had any opportunity to learn from their mothers and very likely to seek out humans since they would most probably associate humans with food. And when they would find a pasture with sheep or cattle, it would be a blood bath. There would be massive casualties and lots of bite marks, claw marks and plenty of DNA left to test.

But this is not what we've seen. Instead we're given stories about big cats who somehow survive for years on the English countryside while leaving behind almost no traces at all. No large-scale attacks, no scats, no tracks, very few sightings (with a frankly suspiciously large percentage of the sightings apparently being made by these "big cat hunters").

Sure, this time they have DNA evidence, but it was collected by one of those big cat hunters, from a carcass that no one else has been allowed to see and the photo evidence of said carcass has been rejected by the actual expert, and it's very little DNA and mitochondrial to boot, so it could be from the same source of hair as the last hoax. The other explanation is that the lab messed up but my money is on hoax.
 
No large-scale attacks, no scats, no tracks, very few sightings

Indeed! I've hunted and fished for years up in the woods, and I've seen a bear twice. Both times they were running away from the road. But I've seen a shit-ton of bear scat. I've never seen a mountain lion, but I've seen plenty of their scat. Here at the house, we often hear coyotes and see them occasionally, but we can always find the scat. Same for foxes and bobcats.

There is just no way a number of big cats are running round the UK countryside and not crapping everywhere. Not only is it just part of living, it's often used to mark territory. I've often walked down dirt roads in the forest and there is bear or other critter scat right in the middle of the road every few hundred feet.

I would think this would be one of the first things to look for. If there is a big cat around it's crapping everywhere. The scat should be easily identifiable and full of not only the big cat DNA, but the prey as well.
 
And this is the crux of it. That big cat-hunter may think she is an expert on how kills made by big cats look, but she is basing her opinion on data that is almost certainly mostly not big cat kills. The actual expert says it is not a big cat kill.
This is what it looks like when you try the UFOlogy approach (UFO "experts" who have never seen a confirmed UFO) in another discipline.
 
Sure, this time they have DNA evidence, but it was collected by one of those big cat hunters, from a carcass that no one else has been allowed to see and the photo evidence of said carcass has been rejected by the actual expert, and it's very little DNA and mitochondrial to boot, so it could be from the same source of hair as the last hoax. The other explanation is that the lab messed up but my money is on hoax.


There are big cats in Cumbria at South Lakes Safari Zoo, near Dalton-in-Furness, that could provide a source of DNA contamination with
a possible vector being avian scavanging.
 
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