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Wales Online
Wales Online
Andrew Forgrave & Will Hayward

Walkers 'report cluster of big cat sightings and massive pawprints' in Wales

A group set up to investigate big cat sightings has reported a recent cluster in Snowdonia. Every so often, reports circulate of another big cat sighting all over the UK. Many are proven to be mistakes or hoaxes and rarely do they bring with them strong (or any) evidence that there was actually a large predator behind the dark shape in the bushes.

However since April, North Wales Live has reported that three walkers claim to have seen large cat-like animals in the region while a fourth came across a “massive” paw print. One sighting was on Snowdon itself, another nearby. Other reports were made further north, towards Bethesda, and further south, near Blaenau Ffestiniog. The most recent sighting was in the early hours of July 25 as Stephanie Robinson climbed Snowdon’s Pyg track to catch the sunrise. En route she said she encountered a “brown or tawny big cat”.

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Stephanie reported what she had seen to Puma Watch North Wales (PWNW). “As I was hiking up Snowdon with only a head torch, I heard a loud, aggressive growl come from a cave/sheltered area,” she wrote. “I remained silent and turned off my head torch as I didn’t want to attract the wild animal that lay before me.”

It’s not the first time someone has apparently come across a big cat on this part of Snowdon. In October 2020, Jacques Wood from Leeds also made a pre-sunrise solo trek along the Pyg track to Crib Goch and claimed to have seen a 3.5ft tall and 4ft long animal ahead of him: “I just froze,” said the 28-year-old. “It was pitch black and I was on my own and felt vulnerable if I am honest. I started very slowly trekking backwards. I did not take my eyes off the animal.”

More recently, on July 4, a sighting was made by a wild camper near Bethania, Blaenau Ffestiniog. He was practising night navigation when he heard “squeals of an animal nearby”.

The man, called Max, said: “About five minutes later I saw a set of golden eyes reflected in my head torch, about 50m above me and 50 meters ahead of me. The eyes looked a bit high off the ground for it to be a fox. It stared at me for a while. When I shouted at it, it looked away, then back at me, and then disappeared. I wasn’t convinced until I saw other sightings near here online.”

In fact, NWPW has no other recorded sightings in the Blaenau Ffestiniog area, which is not technically part of the national park. The nearest are in Beddgelert and involve a “tawny coloured puma” said to have been responsible for several livestock killings in the area.

On Sunday, June 12, a man came across a pawprint at the top of the Cwm Pennant valley which he said was “massive and looked like a cat print”. He’d set out from Rhyd-Ddu, a popular starting point for Snowdon, in the opposite direction towards Nantlle Ridge. The man, called Adam, found his pawprint among disused quarry workings. After confirming its exact location, he took a photo and shared it with PWNW.

The last of this year’s quartet of Snowdonia sightings was reported from the very edge of the national park, east of Bethesda. It was made by a woman called Sarah who was spooked by an animal she saw in Pen Braich woods, near Braichmelyn, just after noon on April 6.

She wrote: “I saw a large black animal – I thought it was a dog – and it watched me walking by. I tried to go near it, but it disappeared into the woods, so quiet. I was out walking my dog on my own, but I called my husband straight away as I was shocked.”

PWNW’s database of sightings suggests a large cluster in the Clwydian hills, with others in Snowdonia and along the north Wales coast, including Llandudno and Prestatyn. Recent attention has been focused on the Pwllheli area. One theory is that big cats released into wild many years ago and become emboldened to investigate urban areas, “as seen with Llandundo’s now-famous goats, who took to roaming the town’s deserted streets during coronavirus lockdowns,” said PWNW.

A walker took this photo of a large pawprint above the Cwm Pennant valley on June 12 (North Wales Live)

The explanation for Snowdonia’s recent cluster of sightings may be more prosaic. As visitor numbers have soared in recent years, more sightings – or apparent sightings – are inevitable.

When assessing the likely credibility of a big cat sighting It is also important to bear in mind that human beings are quite often mistaken when it comes to observation. Especially if they are scared. There is also the fact that if you are expecting to see big cats, you are more likely to associate the shape or shadow you see with a big cat. Any big cat sightings, recent and historical, can be reported to Puma Watch North Wales via its website.

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