Sunday, 12 February 2012
Big cat goes indoors of house in Seaford
Last sunday(5th feb.and previously posted on bigcatsinsussex.co.uk/news)a big cat went indoors of a house on the outskirts of Seaford and was confronted by the occupants who shooed it out,i am unsure of the exact details but since the story broke on Meridian tonight last sunday it has sparked great interest and also wonder at why such a usually retreating type of animal would do such a thing.I have a chain of linking evidence,some might fairly say merely coincidences,that may offer an explanation.
We will have to reel the clock back to the autumn of "09 and trip east along the coast a few miles to Peacehaven when a large sandy big cat crosses the path in front of a dog walker.Again,in the same field in november a black,slightly smaller but still large black cat was seen bearing in mind that sightings of big cats usually only describe the same sort of animal being in the same area,2 different ones is the exception.That winter i received mutliple reports from multiple witnesses of a big black cat and aslo a very big brown cat being seen along the coastal downland strip from Newhaven to Telscombe and further along to Saltdean often at night.The area of intense activity semmed to be centered arond the Telscombe area by early spring with possibly the most interesting ones describing the black cat coming out of the garden of one of the large houses in the area repeatedly and sometimes with some sort of food in it,s mouth.Intrigued,i met up with a friend who lived locally and was introduced to the householder.I was told that they had never seen a big cat but that every evening at dusk they put on quite a spread for the local foxes by supplying them with chicken legs and chunks of beef which they did every winter.Being elderly they retired to bed content in the knowledge they they were looking after their wild "pets".Were they in fact feeding a big cat or 2 without their knowledge and were the 2 big cats that were seen together actually mating?Some species of big cats such as leopards mate repeatedly over a period of time that the female is in season.Had the smaller black cat,the female,then gone on to give birth in probably march to a single cub,most likely in the dense scrub that lines the combes and deans of the area?
As spring progressed we were in the grip of one of the latest spring baby rabbit boom seasons i have ever known with litters not being born until late march and the local situation was magnified,as far as the predators were concerned by the rabbits being culled thoroughly due to formerly being in plague proportions.So we have a situation of a sudden halt of the local food supply being the rabbits,an end to the free grub in the form of chicken wings as it was now spring.Is it any wonder that lambs were being taken just about every day.I was receiving reports from a sheep farmer about lambs going and were eaten out in an unusual way."It,s not like foxes"he said to me"the carcases are too clean with none of the fleece being scattered about".I investigated and true to his word found a literal boneyard of lamb skeletons,sprinkled with the a badger and also a fox carcase in the dense thorn scrub that i had to get on my hands and knees to get into.As the picture above shows i found a few disused(obviously!)wartime bunkers with entrances mostly blocked.In the war the down tops were a host of anti-aircraft batteries,look out posts and various other buildings with some of the most strategic having bunkers and tunnels stretching far underground and remaining secret and some are lost to this day.At Newhaven fort down the road is a surviving examlple.Could a big cat have had a cub in one of these tunnels safe and sound?I was phoned by an Argus reporter at the time and i can remember telling her that i was a bit buzy that day to go with them but if they just went to Telscombe old village and asked around they would speak to several witnesses who had seen varios big cat activity which they did including a chap who had seen one on his shed roof.The story was in the paper the next day as blogged in bigcatdetective.blogspot.com "big cat fears over animal deaths".
Anyhow,by july the sheep kills had tailed off and my new trail camera had produced no big cat pictures however there was a sighting down the road just north of Piddenhoe by 2 people who had seen a largish cat around 16 to 18" tall,slim with a very long tail,being of a streaked golden colour similar to a serval cat they had seen in Africa one year.Experienced safarists they were adamant it wasn,t a domestic.Over the years when i have investigated possibilties of big cats that could of been breeding,like the situation here,there has sometimes been a sighting of a strange looking cat similar to this one and they are often described as servals,lynx but with long tails or whatever,the sightings would be of only a short period of time and never happen again in the same area.It could be that a cub that would of been born like this one would have a different,more camaflaged colour than the black or brown of it,s parents just like the leopards of this world and would then at around 6 months old change to the commonly seen black or brown.
By late august we have a larger black cat seen with a smaller black cat running down the side hill at Devils Dyke.The following winter of "10/"11 sightings in the former area of what i had worked out to be the Offham big cat in the previous couple of years changed from being of a lab sized black big cat to a black cat of around 18" tall.I had theorised that the Offham big cat had given birth to what i now called the Telscombe cat and had formed a habit of wandering through peoples gardens on occasion or at the very least being seen repeatedly in the countryside edgeing on to suburbia.Sightings were;near garden at Lewes (pics on website)november and december,Newhaven,Peacehaven again in december,also gardens in Saltdean,Woodingdean,Ovingdean,then a garden in Brighton by march in the Ditchling road area(as reported in the Argus)I found a cat-like paw print on the downs at Falmer(evidence page on website no.37)which match the paw prints found in the snow outside the house at Seaford this week and are only smaller by 3 or 4 mm Barcombe in april,may seen at the back of Ovingdean again this time likely to be coursing rabbits.All these sightings were of a 18" tall black cat with a very long tail nearly as long as it,s body differentiating it from a domestic.In high summer sightings of a cat fitting the same description were popping up on the downs at South Heighton and also Seaford golf course which backs on to the downland ridge which leads up to Firle,it seemed to be now spending protracted times in areas of high rabbit population away from human habitation but by august a witness contacted me to say of strange padding on her conservatory roof at Telscombe Tye,i followed it up and uncovered a couple of sightings in the area at the time and by the end of the month a, by now,20" tall black cat was seen going through gardens at dusk setting the local dogs off on the outskirts of the southern end of Lewes and also at nearby Kingston.
This winter sightings have been a little sparser however a large black cat was seen in a garden at Woodingdean last december and also back at the Seaford golf course area as well as the downs behind it,it,s typical for sightings of a big cat to decrease in it,s supposed second winter however it,s not usual at all for a big cat to be seen in peoples gardens so often in the same area(i had already mapped out the Offham cats territory to include these places and assumed it,s cub would be given a portion of it)in fact taking the county as a whole,sightings and evidence gathered in 2011 revealed big cat activity to of taken place in peoples gardens only very infrequently and not repeated much by the same cats.Not so here with the Telscombe big cat being seen regularly in peoples gardens.Could it have formed the habit early on in life by accompanying it,s mother to the house at Telscombe that forked out the chicken wings way back in the winter of 2010?If it is the same cat and i think it is, it would of learnt that food is freely on offer at these sort of places which would account for the above data.It may of been a step too far for it to actually go into someones house as it did at Seaford a s i,m sure it realised by it,s mistake but it might of been forced to by the onset of sub-zero temperatures that started the day before and are going on even now.I have already posted evidence that big cats find it harder to catch prey in times of hard weather.I doubt very much that such a usually shy creature as a big cat would repeat such a big mistake as going into a house,it has been reported before over the years in Sussex but has never happened again in the same area.That,s how wild animals learn about life sometimes,they nearly come a cropper,learn from it and don,t do it again......