Tuesday, 22 November 2016

2016 big cat update

It has been some years since I have updated this blog. News on big cats is now published first on Twitter then with maybe a follow up short article on the bigcatsinsussex.co.uk website, this blog has been sidelined as I haven't felt it necessary to elaborate on the bare bones of the case as it were. A lot has changed since 2012. For a start, reported sightings from witnesses to big cat activity have diminished from around 50 good ones annually to around 10 as of this year. By good ones I mean reports that have come in that could be construed as being part of a cluster of sightings at in a general area, in other words all describing roughly the same size and sort of big cat, and seen in a rough area depending on the whim of myself at the time. Each winter a cluster of sightings often develops in an area with the reports positioned less than 10 or 15 miles away from each other and to die off as the weather warms up at the beginning of the year. Up until 2012 there might be up to 3 or 4 clusters of winter or early spring sightings that had developed sometimes not uncovered until the following summer when a chance encounter with someone who "saw a big cat last winter" along a few other locals allows a picture of big cat history to develop. This year has seen around a dozen sightings with about the same last year and the year before that maybe a few more but still only fraction of say 2011 when there could be 2 or 3 sightings a week at peak times. It has been impossible to find any paw prints worth taking plaster casts of and nothing has been sent in. Despite swamping with trail cameras areas that had reputedly seen repeat returns of a cat on a regular basis nothing was achieved. There may of been any number of reasons why no photos were captured however it is certain that there is less big cat activity going on ergo there are less cats. In other words the population has slumped to 2 or 3 at best for the whole of the county including the border areas of the neighbouring counties of Hampshire, Surrey and Kent. There appears to be only 1 reason for this that is circumstantial on the one hand and compelling on the other and that is that big cats principal prey are rabbits and that the huge rabbit number crash since late 2012 has been the driving factor in the rapid decline of big cats. A particularly virulent strain of rabbit haemorrhagic disease or VHD spread rapidly through the ranks of the burgeoning rabbit population that was exploding prior to this in some places. IT has been alleged that the disease was spread by humans intentionally but animals like rabbits and mice naturally fluctuate in number depending on food resources and the crashes are often caused by disease that is helped to spread by overcrowding and kills more of the weaker and under fed. In the good old days pre-2012 it wasn't uncommon to see 50 to 100 rabbits just along one hedge, the field virtually bare ground where they have cropped the grass or crops so much they have killed it off. The hedge would be honeycombed with rabbit holes and collapsing in places due to the immense earth moving going on above ground. Nowadays the same buries hold maybe a couple of rabbits. True, there the odd pockets of rabbits about where there are still quite a few and these tend to be along sandy, well drained banks, are in scrubby places that are perfect for bush rabbits i.e. those that live mostly above ground and so avoiding the disease spreading, damp and claustrophobic tunnels and are often bordered by areas that have little to hold rabbits like river marshes or forestry blocks hence preventing disease spread. More follows...

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