The U3A March meeting was held at Number 8 and the speaker was Rick Minter, environmental consultant, researcher and author of Big Cats, Secrets of the Local Landscape

This illustrated talk covered evidence and the main issues about the emotive subject of big cats living wild in Britain. Big cats are difficult to see in the wild even though black panthers measure 3’3” nose to rump and stand over 2’ tall with a very long, thick tail. In ten years, more than 1000 witness reports have been received although the sightings are thought to be under reported for several reasons – fear of ridicule or not wanting to encourage trophy hunting.

Many witness reports are gathered at County Shows and a questionnaire entitled ‘Your View’ showed the majority of people thought the animals should be left alone.

Some of these animals have moved into the wild as a result of recession hit small wildlife parks, people having trophy pets and the laws requesting owners of exotic pets to have licences.

Camera traps are the best way to photograph these animals and these traps are positioned in underpasses and other areas where they are thought to roam.

We were shown several photographs of animals killed and just the meat eaten with either the muzzle held to suffocate or the throat bitten through. Big cats eat only meat so the rest of the carcass is left. Photos of horses scarred with rake marks showed more evidence of attack by a big cat. Droppings are tested showing big bone shards, hair and sometimes deer hooves.

People become fearful of these big cats and take action to protect themselves – we were shown a photo of a dog flap in a door which had been taped up!

Rick is very enthusiastic about Big Cats and made the talk very interesting although sometimes very gory! Rick spoke to members of the audience and there were at least 3 witnesses and two people who had close friends having clear reports.

The speaker at our 7th April meeting will be John Christophers from Albrighton Pottery. This will be held at Number 8 at 2 p.m. New members will be very welcome.

Jackie Peek