Are ‘lampers’ on the hunt for big cats?|Ed Malone||07/20/06 at 08:59:41|obadiah|xx|0||BIG cats on the prowl in the countryside around Paisley could be at
risk from marauding gangs of `lampers' who go out at night with
shotguns and high-powered rifles to blast away with bullets and
pellets at foxes and roe deer.

"Lampers mount huge swivelling lights on the back of pick-up lorries
and drive off-road through woods and across fields," said a former
countryside ranger at Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park.

"They dazzle foxes and deer with the lights and shoot them as the
animals stand mesmerised in the glare.

"Other times the lampers will just see a pair of eyes shining in the
darkness and fire away.

"Unfortunately the Paisley area has a bad reputation for lamping.

"I would hate to see this type of activity happening with the big
cats. Apart from being unsporting and unfair on the quarry, lamping is
highly dangerous to humans.

"Recently a wee boy in England who accompanied some relatives and
friends on a lamping expedition was accidently shot and killed by
someone who mistook him in the darkness for a wild animal.

"Lots of people have legitimate reasons for being out in the
countryside at night, like farmers, shepherds, gamekeepers,
bird-watchers, astronomers and photographers.

"They, as well as the big cats could be in danger at the hands of

We told how a group of investigators are tracking large feline
predators in woods, fields and river banks close to the town.

And we revealed how startled Buddies saw lynx-like creatures and
animals resembling black leopards on the Gleniffer Braes and in
gardens on the outskirts of Johnstone.

Spooked staff at Merchiston Hospital were frightened by a big cat
staring at them from among the trees when they arrived for work. Some
employees told how they found the carcass of a roe deer in Merchiston

They reckoned the deer was torn apart by a panther-like predator.

And there were accounts of anglers spotting big cats along the River
Gryfe (correct) at Linwood Moss and further upriver at Craigends Woods
in Houston.

Now there have been more sightings which seem to confirm the presence
of large felines in the Paisley area.

A member of Kilbarchan Athletic club was running along footpaths in
the Gleniffer Braes Country Park, near Bardrain Wood, above Foxbar,
when he saw a large unidentified animal in front of him.

"The animal was dark in colour and bounding across a moor very
gracefully," said the teenage athlete.

"I had no idea what it was and I didn't hang around to find out
because I was scared and felt vulnerable.

"I turned round and ran back the other way as quickly as I could.

"I'd love to run as fast in races.

"It definitely wasn't a deer and I don't think it was a dog.

"The more I think of it the more I reckon it was one of the big cats I
read about in the Paisley Daily Express."

Another report of a big cat sighting came from a woman who has twice
seen a black-coloured cat on the Georgetown Road while she was driving
early in the morning from her home in Houston to her work-place in

"It was about 5am and I was heading along the road when the animal
appeared on the road in front of me," said the middle-aged woman.

"It was about three feet high and very slender and lithe.

"I only mentioned it to my close family because I didn't want other
people to think I was hallucinating if I told them what I had seen.

"They'd ask me what I was on. Then my grand-daughter showed me the
Paisley Daily Express article about big cats with the photograph of
the black leopard.

"Now I'm convinced this is what I saw.

"I wasn't scared because I was in my car and the animal wasn't
menacing in any way.

"It just loped across the road and disappeared into the dense forests
around the former Royal Ordnance Factory. It was a marvellous sight.

"I thought at the time I would never see anything like it again –
then, incredibly, the big black cat appeared in front of me again at
the same spot as I was driving to work a few days later.

"I just hope people leave it alone because I wouldn't want anyone
trying to catch it or harm it any way.

"It wasn't doing anyone any harm and should be left alone because
obviously it is avoiding humans and just feeding on things like
rabbits, mice and voles."

The woman's sightings of the big cat were close to where anglers saw a
similar creature while out fishing on the River Gryfe late at night as
reported in our article.

And there was another big cat sighting in a forest on the outskirts of
Bridge of Weir.

A businessman who lives in a converted farmhouse near the forest saw a
large black cat among the trees when he was returning home from work
late at night.

The sighting was near to where Sandy Smith of the Scottish Big Cats
Investigation group saw a large feline between Bridge of Weir and

As we reported earlier, Sandy says dozens of big cats were released
into rural areas across Britain following the introduction of the
Dangerous Animals Act several years ago.

The new law required owners of big cats to obtain licences and secure
the premises where the animals were kept.

"This costs thousands of pounds and although many owners complied with
the new regulations many found the costs prohibitive and released
their animals into the wild," said Mr Smith.

"These are the creatures which are seen today in places like the
countryside around Paisley."

Mr Smith said the felines are unlikely be dangerous unless cornered.

"They are more likely to run away from humans than attack them," he said.

"However, people shouldn't look them in the eye. They should try to
photograph them instead from a safe distance."

Mr Smith says members of his group are not out to catch or harm the
big cats.

"We just want to record them because that's what provides the buzz,"
he said.

"We use tracking skills and infra-red cameras and telescopes which can
be used at night to detect the cats."

Paisley Express 18/7/06