Panther on loose?|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|05/19/06 at 14:53:16|obadiah|xx|0|81.155.45.216|TWO women were thrown from their horses on the outskirts of South Brent after a big cat reportedly frightened the animals. Melanie Merchant was riding with friend Tanya Tregaskis and suffered head injuries in the fall. She was taken to Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, but her injuries were not thought to be serious. Ms Tregaskis was not thought to be injured. The incident occurred at Aish Ridge on the outskirts of the village. After the incident, police were called to the scene, as the startled horse was running free around village’s lanes. It was later caught near to the police station. According to Totnes police, the woman told officers that a large cat had frightened her horse. Big cat expert Chris Moiser said that the animal was most likely a black panther, which he believes roams in a vast area on South Dartmoor from the edge of Plympton. He added: ‘It would be irresponsible to guess without talking to the woman – but it’s possible the horses may have been spooked just by the presence of a big cat. ‘We have had a horse attacked in South Brent but that was a horse alone in a field. ‘There’s never been a horse attacked with a rider – it’s very unlikely.’ Mr Moiser, a zoologist, pointed to recent reports of cats in North Devon and said that he has logs from police showing 140 reported sightings of big cats between 1996 and 2002. Mr Moiser urged caution from residents who spot a big cat. ‘Don’t run and don’t panic,’ he said. ‘We get seven to 10 people killed by bee or wasp stings every year but we have never had anyone killed by a big cat outside a zoo.’ There have been recent reports of big cats near Kingswear and big cats were also spotted in August 2005 near Filham and California Cross.

http://www.ivybridge-today.co.uk/today/options/news/newsdetail.cfm?id=25906
|| Re: Panther on loose?|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|05/19/06 at 15:06:08|obadiah|xx|0|81.155.45.216|TEN TORS TREK FLUSHED OUT MOOR'S BIG CATS, SAYS DEVON ZOOLOGIST  
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11:40 - 19 May 2006  
The Ten Tors trek across Dartmoor was responsible for flushing out big cats which have terrified Devon residents, according to expert Chris Moiser.

Mr Moiser, a zoologist currently involved in a year-long study entitled Big Cats In Britain, has placed posters around the moor appealing for information after sightings in South Molton and Okehampton.

The author of three books about exotic cats living in the Westcountry, Mr Moiser said he believes activity around the Ten Tors trek last weekend would have scared the cats into the open. Around 2,500 youngsters took part in the two-day event.

"When you have thousands of kids on the moor, lighting smelly campfires and putting up tents, you are going to get large movements of wildlife," he said.

"We know that there are a lot of deer movements at this time and any large cats wouldn't hang around."

Mr Moiser, from Plymouth, thinks the cat that spooked horses ridden by Tanya Tregaskis and friend Melanie Marchant near South Brent at around noon on Monday could have been the same one seen by the Neville family in Okehampton the previous Friday, despite conflicting reports about the animal's colour.

He has since travelled the area between the two sightings and said it was perfect big cat terrain.

"As soon as I saw it, I knew there was a real possibility the cat could have travelled across this land," he said.

"It was exactly what they like: small fields, lots of hedgerows and undergrowth and lots of hills."

Miss Marchant needed hospital treatment for a cut to her head after she and Miss Tregaskis were thrown from their saddles when their horses were startled.

Miss Tregaskis described the animal as the height of a golden retriever but longer than a dog.

"It was beige in colour, with a round face and a tail which turned up at the end," she said.

The horses fled and were later found three miles away at South Brent police station.

Mr Moiser, a former Plymouth University lecturer, said the animal was likely to be either a lynx or leopard, several of which were released from captivity after laws banning people from keeping them as pets came into force in 1976.

The earlier sighting was on Friday at Okehampton, close to the site of the Ten Tors base camp, which was being set up at the time.

Sisters Katie and Sarah Neville, aged 10 and nine, respectively, and their friend Alex Arthurs, nine, were playing on wasteland at the end of their road. The area is a maze of trees and shrubs with footpaths winding through it. They ran to get Alex's mother after hearing growling from a bush.

When they returned, there was a large dark- coloured cat running off into the bushes.

Sarah said: "It was about the size of a German Shepherd. I was terrified."

Mr Moiser wants to hear from anyone who has spotted big cats. He can be contacted on 07751 363198.

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