Is there a panther or big cat loose in Suffolk?

Is a big cat roaming the Suffolk countryside?

Is a big cat roaming the Suffolk countryside? - Credit: PA

Police in Suffolk have been contacted six times in the last 12 months with reports of big cats roaming the county.

The British Big Cat Society (BBCS) said it had also received reports from Suffolk, and urged anyone who thought they may have seen one to contact them.

Since 2014, Suffolk Constabulary has received three calls from people who had reportedly seen a ‘big cat’.

The first came on June 6, 2014, from Foxhall Road, Ipswich. Officers checked for missing animals from zoos and questioned people in the area, but nothing was found.

Later that month, another call came from Heveningham, Halesworth, where a big cat was believed to have been spotted.

The safer neighbourhood team was informed and farmers in the area made aware.

On April 28 this year, another was allegedly sighted in Wrentham, Beccles, and reported to officers, but no big cat was discovered. There were no reports in 2012 or 2013.

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In the same period, Suffolk police was contacted three times with concerns of a ‘panther’ on the loose.

These were reported on November 12, 2014, in Warren Road, Red Lodge; another on April 20, 2015, in Herringswell, Bury St Edmunds; and the last in Tunstall, Woodbridge on June 28, 2015. In all cases, the matter was referred to rural crime officers but no big cats were found.

Founder of the BBCS, Danny Bamping, said: “We have had a lot of data in the past 12 months and historically in the past 15 years from Suffolk because it is extremely rural. We have had incidents of people releasing them in that area because they have them as pets.”

Mr Bamping said the only big black cat that would be seen in Britain was a melanistic leopard, commonly called a panther.

“The melanstic gene that makes the animal go black seems to be common when cats interbreed,” Mr Bamping said.

“We know we have several different species so it is possible that the black cats seen out there could be hybrid, so unique to science.”

It is therefore important to tell the society when a big cat is spotted, Mr Bamping added, so the animals could be protected.

A spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary said it was rare for the force to receive these types of calls.

“If there is immediate danger we will respond, but often the sighting will be referred to other agencies such as the RSPCA,” he added.

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