Home Entertainment Proof the Beast of Cumbria exists?: Scientists find big cat DNA on...

Proof the Beast of Cumbria exists?: Scientists find big cat DNA on savaged sheep in the Lake District

19
0


There have long been rumours that big cats roam the British countryside.

Blurred photographs, large inexplicable tracks and dramatic eye-witness accounts routinely add to the mystery of their existence.

But now scientists say they have found definitive proof a leopard prowls the Lake District – after they matched DNA found on a dead sheep to a non-native large feline.

Professor Robin Allaby analysed a sample taken from the sheep’s carcass and discovered ‘Panthera genus’ DNA – meaning it had to have come from a lion, leopard, tiger, jaguar or snow leopard.

He said a leopard was the most likely on British soil and that the exciting finding was the first scientific proof that large, non-native cats roam the UK.

Scientists say they have found definitive proof a leopard prowls the Lake District - after they matched DNA found on a dead sheep to a non-native large feline (stock image)

Scientists say they have found definitive proof a leopard prowls the Lake District – after they matched DNA found on a dead sheep to a non-native large feline (stock image)

Biologist Prof Allaby, who said he had always been ‘open-minded’ about the existence of big cats in Britain, told BBC Wildlife magazine that the results of his test had left him in no doubt there was one stalking the Cumbria countryside.

‘It makes me a convert,’ he said. ‘On the balance of probabilities, I think this is a genuine hit.’

The remains of the sheep were discovered by Cumbrian resident Sharon Larkin-Snowden in an undisclosed upland location in October.

She disturbed whatever had been feeding on the carcass and the animal ran towards a stone wall before disappearing.

‘I saw something black, running, and I assumed at first it was a sheepdog,’ she said. ‘Then I did a double take and realised it was a black cat. It ran towards a stone wall, stopped and then jumped the wall. It was big – the size of a German shepherd dog.’

Ms Larkin-Snowden took a swab of the carcass and sent it to Rick Minter, the host of the Big Cat Conversations podcast, who passed it on to Prof Allaby.

He analysed the sample at his laboratory at the University of Warwick and discovered both fox and Panthera DNA. He said the findings suggested the sheep had been eaten by both a fox and a big cat, such as a leopard.

A blurred photo, posted by a Facebook group called Big Cats in Cumbria, that matches other alleged sightings in the countryside around Bowness-on-Windermere in the southern Lake District

A blurred photo, posted by a Facebook group called Big Cats in Cumbria, that matches other alleged sightings in the countryside around Bowness-on-Windermere in the southern Lake District

Prof Allaby said he was relatively confident the sample, which only contained a small amount of big cat DNA, had not been faked, adding: ‘If this were a fake, I would expect plenty of DNA to be present in order that we would be sure to find it.

‘It would be very difficult to plant just a few molecules with any finesse – I don’t think I could do it, let alone a lay person.’

However, Prof Allaby said there was not enough DNA to determine exactly what type of big cat it came from.

He also said more samples were needed before he could publish a paper on his findings or definitively say a big cat was roaming Cumbria.

But Dr Egil Droge, a researcher in predator-prey relationships at the University of Oxford, said he was sceptical.

He told the BBC: ‘There haven’t been any good photos of big cats from the area, not a spray of reports of killed sheep. I would like to see more, and repeated, convincing evidence.

‘If a big cat would roam in England, you’d expect to see clusters of sheep kills. A big cat in a confined space, like a field, with sheep, very quickly would lead to many of those sheep being dead. That wouldn’t go unnoticed.’

The remains of the sheep were discovered by Cumbrian resident Sharon Larkin-Snowden in an undisclosed upland location in October (stock image)

The remains of the sheep were discovered by Cumbrian resident Sharon Larkin-Snowden in an undisclosed upland location in October (stock image)

Claims of big cats in the UK are not a new phenomenon. The so-called Beast of Bodmin has been rumoured to be stalking the moors in Cornwall since the 1970s and a DNA test on animal hair found in barbed wire in Gloucestershire in 2022 pointed to the presence of a big cat.

And there have been many possible sightings in Cumbria since the turn of the century.

In 2015, 26-year-old hotel worker Nich Boden spoke to his local newspaper about fears he had been struck and knocked out by a big cat while walking in Tarn Hows Wood, between Coniston and Hawkshead.

He claimed he woke up after half an hour with no memory of the attack, but had bruises, a deep five-inch gouge on his left shoulder and what appeared to be four claw marks on his forearm.

‘I know it’s all a bit far-fetched but it seems very mysterious and not beyond the realms of possibility,’ Mr Boden told the Westmorland Gazette.



Source link

Previous articleIconic piece of California coast to be opened to tourists after Monaco billionaire who bought property for $8million made deal with state regulators
Next articleBrisbane overtakes Melbourne as the second-most expensive capital city

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here