Back in 2012 we had an unusual deer kill in Woodchester Park which resulted in coverage by Sky news and an investigation by Warwick University academics to determine how the Roe Deer had been killed. What was unusual about the case is that the deer had appeared to have been taken out by the nose which is a common quick kill tactic by a big cat such as a Panther.
The results of the team were inconclusive as the carcass had already been contaminated by other more common predators such as foxes and the like. This was the message we received from the National Trust and so it was business as usual and with no other reported kills the park returned to normality.
It wasnt until over a year later on the 7th December 2013 that myself and Paul Hobday were hosting a paranormal investigation, that we heard a strange noise eminating from the park. Already armed with Zoom microphones I opened the window to the drawing room and recorded the following sound.
Now this had us confused we had spent many nights in the mansion over the years and had never heard any animal noises like this one. By coincidence the following week I was listening to local BBC Radio Gloucestershire and they had a special guest in the studio, none other than local big cat expert Rick Minter. I called the studio and left a message for Rick to give me a call when he was free.
Rick did in fact call me back within the hour and I proceeded to tell him about this strange wildlife noise that we had captured in the Park. Rick was very intrigued as it was him who had attended the scene of the deer kill a year earlier and so we arranged that I would send him the audio file.
Rick called me back a week later saying that he had shared the file with 3 other big cat experts and Exmoor Zoo. The conclusion formed was that it sounded like a couple of Panther Lynx cross bred cats play fighting.
More recently in July 2017 seven people claim they were stalked by a big cat from the boat house in the park up to the car park.
“We were sat in the boat at the boat house and it was behind us in the tree line then at the mansion it followed us up the drive to the car park.”
The witness went on to say:-
“On our way back up the drive we saw yellow eyes in the trees, like it was following us. There was a growl the closer we got to the cars at that point we got scared and ran to the cars and put the lights on - there it was right in front of us. It then jumped over the fence in to the long grass where it seemed to be stalking us, growling. It was a panther, it was as clear as day"
So the question is are there big cats roaming the countryside of Gloucestershire or any othe areas of the UK and is there any recorded evidence?
Rick Minter provided me with the following information from his own reports:-
The police have already declared breeding big cats in both Gloucestershire and the Thames Valley area. The known primary evidence starts in 2003 in Lincolnshire, when a black hair sample registered positive for leopard DNA. In 2011 some black hair from a north Devon hotspot also proved positive for leopard. The Home Office verified the cast of a puma print taken by Thames Valley police in 2011, and a previous puma result came from a south Wales hair sample in 2005. Also in south Wales, tooth-pit analysis concluded leopard impressions on skeletal remains of sheep found in the early 90s.
I did ask Rick several questions about the big cats and was intrigued to learn that Woodchester Park is an ideal habitat and hunting ground for these animals.
He told me they are steathy predators and rarely seen as they hunt in the shadows of woodland and will come out and pounce on unsuspecting prey. As you can see from the aerial map of the park we have plenty of wide open space surrounded by dense foliage that would provide adequate cover for them so I guess the possibility is high if they do in fact exsist.
I for one am open to the concept that we do have big cats hiding among us and am always warey when waiting at the gate to the mansion late at night hoping that they dont get too close to me, not unless I have my camera ready anyway!
Chris Howley 2018