Beast of Bodmin is Photographed

Credit: Paul Cropper.


A resurgence of sightings of the so-called Beast of Bodmin Moor and further attacks on animals has prompted calls for a Government inquiry into the phenomenon to be reopened. Liberal Democrat Paul Tyler, MP for Cornwall North, met junior Agriculture Minister Elliot Morley to urge him to consider new evidence. Mr Tyler said that he had photographic evidence of sightings of the Beast, evidence of bite marks on attacked animals "likely to be by a big cat" and a new scientific study of droppings believed to have come from the wild creature.

Not Available for Re-dissemination.
THE HERALD 03/12/97 P6

28Nov97 UK: 'BEAST' - THE PROOF.

THIS is the picture that proves beyond doubt that big cats are roaming the Westcountry.

Said by experts to be an adult female puma - possibly pregnant - it was caught on camera in the St Austell area of Cornwall. Behind it, seemingly curled in a ball, there appears to be another big cat which, from its markings, may be a cub.

A branch hanging down the large cat's back was measured at two feet from the ground. Following publication of the picture, pressure is mounting on the Government to re-open the inquiry into the so-called Beast of Bodmin.

The picture was given to Cornish Guardian Editor Alan Cooper by a reader who has seen the pumas on a regular basis. It was taken by shooting the camera through a pair of binoculars.

Another long-range panoramic photograph shows the puma sitting on its haunches. This shot has not been released, as the photographer does not want the exact location revealed.

He said: "My wife and I first saw the cats locally on Christmas Day last year. We saw them again two weeks later and several times afterwards, until they disappeared with the arrival of holiday makers around Easter this year."

The animals appeared for an hour or two after daybreak on cold sunny mornings, as if for a spot of sunbathing. They were last seen at this location around two weeks ago. "I mentioned these animals to other people and, comparing sightings, it does seem that these two have been spotted four or five miles away.

"These animals are very shy. Nobody here would like to disturb them. We do not want to attract gun or camera shooters." Mr Cooper, who published the above picture yesterday, said he was convinced the pictures were genuine.

"I have no doubt about their authenticity - if I had then I wouldn't have printed them," he said. "I was talking to this chap about a completely different matter when the subject came up - it was round about the time of other sightings, and I asked if he had pictures.

"The phone has been going mad all day with national papers wanting the photos. He is a very honest guy, who doesn't want to make money out this - any profits will go to charity."



THIS photographic evidence of the existence of big cats in the Westcountry - the clearest yet published - has amazed big cat experts and followers of the legendary "Beast of Bodmin Moor".

The creature's paw prints and droppings were also discovered at the same time on a local beach. The tracks came from a rocky outcrop which can only be reached from an extremely steep cliff.

The droppings are now being DNA tested and results are expected before Christmas.

For years reported sightings, mysterious footprints and slaughtered livestock across the Westcountry, have fired the imagination of people worldwide. Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin have all been credited with having their own "beast", but experts agree there is nothing mythical about these animals.

They are, most likely, large cats released into the wild following the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in the 1970s, which imposed new restrictions on the keeping of exotic pets.

Since then, the cats have thrived and bred in remote areas and could now number as many as 20, according to WMN wildlife expert Trevor Beer, who has spent many years studying them.

Specialists said yesterday the latest photo was breathtaking, and an important addition to the ever-increasing amount of evidence.

Mike Thomas, curator of Newquay Zoo which keeps pumas, said the picture was "remarkable".

"It is definitely a puma and it looks very fat, fit and contented. The size of its head suggests it is a female, and it may be pregnant," he said.

"This is not the first time I have been shown an anonymous photo of a puma. If only we knew who had taken it and where it was, it would be easier to verify.

"But we know there are big cats out there, and along with the faeces and paw prints we already have, this is yet another piece in the jigsaw."

In October, a big cat was spotted drinking in a disused quarry in the St Austell area. Casts of its footprints where compared with those of the pumas in Newquay Zoo and found to be almost an exact match.

Plymouth vet Nigel Taylor said if the latest pictures were real, they were the best ever of a big cat in Cornwall.

"As soon as I saw those pictures I knew it was a puma," he said. "If that's a domestic cat, I'd like to see the number of tins of Whiskas it eats every day."

Trevor Beer said the picture looked genuine, although he would have liked to have seen the cat in more poses."It does look very, very good. If the measurements of that branch are correct, then the cat would be about two and a half feet tall, which is the normal height."

Mr Beer said baby pumas were mottled in colour, but that due to the quality of the photo it was not possible to say if the other animal apparently pictured was a cub.

"It could be a young one, but I really wouldn't like to say. I would love to see a better shot," he said.

In 1994, the sightings of big cats on Bodmin Moor became such a major topic of public debate that the Government ordered an inquiry.

Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture spent 26 days looking into the issue, but found no conclusive evidence. The case was left open.

Paul Tyler, MP for North Cornwall and a staunch believer in the cats, said he would be sending a copy of the new photo, along with other recently collected evidence, including letters from WMN readers, to Countryside Minister Elliott Morley.

Mr Tyler is pressing for a thorough Government investigation to establish the extent of the big cat phenomenon in the Westcountry, and whether they present a danger to livestock and the public. He also wants more people to come forward with evidence of sightings but thinks they may fear ridicule.

He said: "In 1994 I gave ministers sufficient material to get an inquiry going. This is enough to make sure it is extended and brought to a more successful conclusion."

A Ministry of Agriculture spokesman said the fresh evidence would be considered.


An unidentified photo purporting to show the Beast of Bodmin:

I don't believe this is the photo discussed above, but in any case, it is not that impressive. It's hard to detect scale in the photo, and it could be simply of a large black house cat. The mystery continues!