Anglers at a popular fishing lake in the south east are being warned to be on their guard after sightings of a large black cat, thought to be a panther.
Proof of the creature’s existence were given further credibility last week after a set of huge paw prints were found by the water’s edge at the venue - Burham Reservoir in Kent.
Venue owner Gary Dellaway told how the discovery was the latest in a long line of evidence that a mystery beast is stalking the banks.
“A couple of days after we found the pawprints a guy who had been night fishing told us that he’d been in his bivvy when he heard heavy, animal-like footsteps padding about outside. When he looked out, he said the bush behind his bivvy shook as something shot off into the dark,” said Gary.
“Then there was the time last year when a couple of guys were fishing the lake and noticed a large black animal on the far bank in one of the beach swims. It crouched down on its belly to take a drink, and that’s when they realised it was a large cat.”
“There have been other sightings too, including the time two ladies came running up to one of the lads at the fishery with their pet dogs in their arms, saying they’d just seen a huge black cat. They looked like they’d had the shock of their lives,” he added.
Over the past decade there have been numerous reports of big black cats in Kent, in particular around Blue Bell Hill, just a mile from Burham, where the mystery creature has been dubbed ‘The Beast of Bluebell Hill’. Further afield, sightings have been reported in Boxley, Ashford, Lenham and Canterbury.
The man who found the big cat footprints at Burham, Andrew Sprigett has a theory about where the creatures could have come from.
“In the early 1900s there used to be a zoo at Cobtree Manor Estate at the bottom of Bluebell Hill which had large cats. The rumours are that several escaped and sightings have persisted ever since.
“The prints were about 1ins deep, so whatever it was, it was heavy. There were a set of smaller identical prints alongside, maybe from a cub, which would suggest they are breeding. There’s a lot of woodland around the lake where they could happily hide away. That said, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable night fishing in the area!” he said.