Big cat may have been a pet puss |jon_downes||10/10/03 at 19:01:32|jon_downes|xx|0||Big cat may have been a pet puss

Oct 9 2003

A MYSTERIOUS big cat which is roaming the district could once have been a house-hold pet, it has emerged.

Experts say the reported sightings could be down to the vast number of pumas or Siberian cats which were imported to Britain.

During the swinging '60s exotic creatures were among the "must-haves" with the rich and famous.

But the 1976 Wild Animals Act put a stop to anyone owning them without official papers.

Danny Bamping, of the British Big Cats Society, believes that because some owners released them into the wild, some will have survived and even bred.

Speaking on BBC's Countryfile programme, he added: "There definitely are big cats out there. Most of them will probably be pumas or even leopards."

Big cat sightings are now being reported in all four corners of the country, as well as Scotland and Wales.

West Lancashire has remained a hot-spot for sightings, with reports in Skelmers-dale, Burscough, Up Holland and Tarleton, since early this year.

A puma-like creature is thought to have killed a hen and attacked another in Elmers Green, Skelmersdale, this summer.

The British Big Cats Society is now gathering information to present to the government, which it hopes will look into the claims.