People in The United Kingdom have seen an alarming uptick in wild big cat sightings over the past few months.
Experts believe that there are around 1,000 wild cats living in forests throughout the UK, and it’s normal to tally around 2,000 sightings both in the wild and in residential areas each year. But this month alone, three cougars have been seen roaming around houses, reports The Sun. And that is an uncommon occurrence.
The first sighting happened in a neighborhood just outside of Newton. A woman named Julie Murphy said she saw a cougar outside her home and it “charged” at her car.
A few days later, homeowner Luke Hickman, who lives only 10 mins from Murphy, caught doorbell camera footage of a big cat with the same description prowling around his property.
Wildcat expert Rick Minter explained that cougars “very occasionally venture into urban areas at quiet times.” But those encroachments are “probably due to a big cat having a nearby territory and occasionally diverting to the urban edges.”
With reports like Hickman’s and Murphy’s, it seems that more cougars are making appearances, which makes Minter believe that they’re leaving the woods to search for food. And if they’re willing to come into neighborhoods, they’re losing their fear of humans.
“It’s a crucial issue,” he told the publication. “How do we come to terms with living alongside big cats in Britain?”
Big Cats Came to the United Kingdom Due to Exotic Animal Trading in the 1960s
However, he wants everyone to understand that the cats aren’t “large predators on the loose” looking to attack people. The animals are typically “shy and wary,” so there’s no need to fear them.
“They are far more scared of us and most often they are just trying to move humans away from their territory,” he continued.
Minter further shared that other big cats such as pumas and lynxes are also common in the UK. They got to the island by way of the exotic animal trade that became popular in the 1960s. But in 1976, the government passed a law that required people to register the imported animals and provide them with suitable living conditions, and that caused many owners to release the cats into the wild.
Some people surrendered their cats to zoos. But vets had to put some down because they did not have room for the influx. When people learned that the cats were dying, more people decided to release their pets instead of handing them over.