The Scottish Wildcat (an endangered wild cat the size of a large domestic cat) is not the only big cat roaming the Scottish countryside. This week, a big black cat — possibly a panther — was spotted near the Faslane Naval Base on Gare Loch, 25 miles east of Glasgow.
This sighting was unusual in that it was videotaped, enabling experts to review the footage and concur that the animal was neither a dog nor a domestic cat.
Chris Swallow took the photos and video from his mobile phone. At first, he thought it was a Labrador Retriever, crossing railroad tracks next to the Churchill Estate in Helensburgh. But animal’s movements were much more fluid than a dog’s, so he investigated further, only to be stunned by what he saw.
“The animal wasn’t moving the way I expected a dog to. It was then I realized that what I was seeing was a big cat,” said Swallow, who happens to be a trained dog handler.
“I ran to my car to grab my mobile phone for a picture. I stood on the nearby rail bridge in Winston Road and got a still photo and a couple of minutes of footage of the animal moving up the railway line.
“It was remarkable. I’ve heard stories about creatures like this moving about the countryside but never really believed them before. Looking back at the video I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s a big cat.”
In recent years, reports of mysterious big cats have been more numerous than sightings of Nessie in Loch Ness. In fact, there have been so many big cat sightings, the group “Big Cats in Britain” was formed to investigate each claim. The group examined Swallow’s photos and video, and concluded that the animal was “certainly not a domestic cat.”
Shaun Stevens, a researcher for the group, said: “I have a working theory that some of these cats may be a hybrid species or possibly a new species of cat.
“Knowing that the width of the rail tracks in Chris’s video is four feet, eight-and-a-half inches, the animal photographed by him is clearly in excess of four feet.
“Initial first impressions are very exciting, as I think this could be one of the best pieces of footage of a big cat in the UK.”
According to Stevens, the area is a favorite big cat haunt, with an average of 30 sightings reported each year.
Some of the sightings might be attributable to too many single malts, but authorities believe that when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was passed in the UK in the 1970s, making it illegal to keep big cats, many were released to the wild.