Is a big cat prowling the East Devon countryside?
PUBLISHED: 14:26 13 May 2016 | UPDATED: 13:52 17 May 2016
A report of a big cat prowling the outskirts of West Hill has triggered dozens of people to come forward claiming they have spotted the creature around the Sid Valley and East Devon.
Jane Overthrow posted a status on the Ottery Matters Facebook page, saying she had seen a ‘black panther-type’ creature strolling across a field at the end of Lower Broad Oak Road, near Higher Metcombe, on Saturday morning.
She said the dark chocolate brown creature was heading towards a cattle field.
“I honestly cannot tell you what it was, except it seemed too long and big to be a normal dog,” said Jane.
“We stopped to have a better look, but it was about 200 yards away.”
Dozens of residents responded to the post to share their big cat encounters.
Danny Bamping, founder of the British Big Cats Society, told the Herald this week: “Historically and at the moment, up until the present day, that area around Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary has been a bit of a hot-spot. For years, around this time we get most of the sightings because it is getting a bit warmer and they are moving around more, looking for food.”
Danny advised any person who saw a big cat to keep still, not threaten it and to just observe it. He said, even in well-populated areas of the world, big cats were rarely seen because the only thing they felt they needed to fear were humans.
Among those to comment on the Ottery Matters page was Pamela Mary Johns, who believed she saw something similar in the same area last week, while Mary Searle said she spotted a big animal - with hunched shoulders and a very long tail - a few years ago on Seaton Road. Chris Vanstone claimed he had also spotted something similar off East Hill Strips, going down into Sidbury.
Rob Bland said he was coming back from Wiggaton to Ottery one day when a creature jumped out of a hedge into the road, stopped, looked at him and then cleared a hedge up to eight feet in height.
Anna Foxford said she believed there was a big cat on East Hill a few years back when, she claimed, something killed a few of a local farmer’s sheep.
Sue Wakley-Stoyle also claimed to have seen an animal, too big to be a cat, and moving too differently to be a dog, in the Marsh Green area, near Rockbeare. She said: “It was out in the street. I saw it…me and Mum were both cold sober.”
Jo Walrond-Smith said she also saw the creature in Marsh Green around two years ago in Quarter Mile Lane, heading towards Aylesbeare. She said: “It walked past my car, very calm, like it owned the road. No-one believed me, but I know what I saw.”
Sarah Row claimed she had seen such a creature three times in the space of a few weeks, a couple of years ago, and that she videoed it in fields in Ottery.
Vicki Lawrence said workmen told her they had seen two large panther-like cats on two separate occasions on a farm just outside of Ottery.