Multiple big cat sightings in Hatherleigh

Ross Bryant
Ross Bryant

A number of people have reported seeing a ‘black panther’ sized cat on the outskirts of Hatherleigh.

The reports come after a string of sightings across the South West earlier this year. Residents have reported seeing a large cat in multiple
locations in Hatherleigh and the surrounding areas. Clare Louise Ellerton was walking along Runnon Moor Lane when a large black cat ‘the size of a Labrador’ was seen running towards nearby woodland last week.

“As I was driving to take my dogs for a walk along the cycle path it ran out in front of our car,” said Clare. “It ran into the woody area at the side of Moor View, it was definitely not a dog, it was very sleek and long. I stopped some people who were also walking towards us who saw it too. The other people said that they watched it run into the woods.”

The description of the animal matches those of sightings earlier this year in Devon and Cornwall. Kevin Theodore who lives just north of
Hatherleigh also claims to have seen the big cat.

“My wife and I were dropping off some livestock to a smallholding just outside Copplestone on the A377. We’d unloaded and were standing there chatting when in the next field not thirty metres away, I mean really close, a large black cat came over the Devon bank, saw us and froze. We froze as well.” As a local smallholder, Kevin is used to seeing animals in fields with few objects to ascertain size.

“I’ve been shooting and doing pest control work for over twenty years, including deer control, so I’m fairly good at estimating size and range. That was a big black cat with yellow eyes, although that particular sighting was around two years ago.”

Kevin added: “There was absolutely no doubt that it was a big cat because of how close we were and it stood there not moving for maybe 30 seconds just staring at us. Anyhow it realised it had been seen and jumped back the way it came.”

However, this isn’t the first time Kevin has heard about big cats in the area.  “A friend of mine who is no longer with us used to live and work in and around Petrockstowe woods. He said he used to see them regularly and in the winter you could see their paw prints in the snow on the fallen trees. He was also the one who had the birthday flight from the airfield up near Bickington and the pilot told him that they regularly see big cats bounding through the grass at hay cutting time.”

Sightings have also occurred at a clay pit site in the village of Meeth, with others claiming multiple sightings in the area of nearby village of Petrockstowe.  Another local resident said: “I saw a black cat weeks ago. It was a distance from me so I thought it was a large puss cat. What I did notice was it had a slinky back.”

We presented these sightings to Danny Bamping of The British Big Cats Society. Danny has believed for some time that the most likely area for the alien big cats to reside is throughout Mid Devon and East Somerset, a territory consisting of rural farms and woodlands. Danny said: “The rural land between Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor creates a perfect route for the cats. For years there have been lots of sightings around Mid Devon, Great Torrington and Holsworthy; there aren’t many major towns so it’s perfect.

‘We always see a spike in sightings during the summer, the cats come off the high ground during the warmer months.”

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