Forget Gloucestershire big cats - 'lion' spotted near the M5
CONCERNED callers alerted county police to more than 60 suspected big cat sightings in seven years – including a lion next to the M5 motorway.
Gloucestershire Constabulary figures show they received 61 calls about what people believed were big cats in the county between January 2004 and April 2011.
Most reported large black puma-type animals, though on June 29, 2009, a caller described seeing a lion in a field next to junction nine at Ashchurch near Tewkesbury.
Sightings logged all over Gloucestershire have been disclosed twice by the force after requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
Gents, come in to Earl's & Co and enjoy a haircut and finish, glass of whisky and a shoeshine for £18.50
Terms: Later and earlier appointments available upon request
Contact: 01242 504887
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
Big cat tracker Frank Tunbridge, whose camera footage of what appears to be a large cat near Stroud has caused a national stir, was surprised the force did not have more reports.
"Every year going back to 2004 I have had between around 40 and 50 sightings reported to me," said Mr Tunbridge, who was one of the first on the scene when two deer carcasses near Woodchester and Dursley were tested for big-cat DNA.
"People used to be afraid to report them, but less so now."
Even though those Warwick University tests could not detect DNA evidence that a big cat had taken the two deer, academics there are testing what may be fur from a big cat found near Dursley. Results are not expected for "some weeks", a said a university spokeswoman.
The tests prompted many more reports of sightings of big cats and dead deer, and the video footage taken by Stroud teaching assistant Coryn Memory on Frank's camera created huge interest – and some cynicism.
She said she has a camera with a more powerful zoom, ready to capture on film the animal she has seen six times.
One caller told police they had been "chased by large cat" in a field near Imjin Road, Cheltenham, on April 19 last year, but most told the force they had seen what they believed was a big cat.
Another said a cat was lurking in the centre of Coleford.
Some neighbouring forces also have figures available – Avon and Somerset took 19 reports between 2005 and 2011, while Thames Valley received 24 in 2010 alone.
A Gloucestershire police spokeswoman said Defra and Natural England would be informed of big-cat sightings.
She said the force would only become involved if there was a threat to public safety – something that has not happened in Gloucestershire, she said, adding: "Should Gloucestershire police receive any information regarding big cats in the county the details are passed on to the relevant agencies."