Puma spotted

PUBLISHED: 16:56 20 March 2008 | UPDATED: 08:55 10 June 2010

A tattooist s heart skipped a few beats last week when the unmistakeable form of a British big cat appeared in the hills above his home

A tattooist's heart skipped a few beats last week when "the unmistakeable form of a British big cat" appeared in the hills above his home.

A typical stroll with Springer Spaniel puppy Oakley turned into an Attenborough-esque sighting for Chris Williams on Saturday, March 8.

A quick attempt to snap a shot of the Puma-like cat was foiled when the animal fled - but not before the 33-year-old had been convinced of his rare spot.

Tattoo artist Mr Williams had taken Oakley for a walk up into the fields behind his Fox Hill home at Axminster - when the dog's ears suddenly pricked up and the air stilled with a sense of excitement.

Mr Williams said: "My dog was scared, and I saw this muscular animal about 30 metres away. I thought it was a German Shepherd at first, but then I saw it was a cat. It was an amazing sight - a beautiful animal, really muscular and powerful with big haunches. It was dark-coloured, about the size of a Puma, and was unmistakeably a big cat.

"It didn't sink in at first, and I wasn't scared, even though it was only three-quarters of a mile from the estate. I thought it was probably more frightened of me."

The animal fled from the scene - Mr Williams convinced he had interrupted it hunting.

The sighting is not necessarily a shock. In 2005 a Devon-based group, the British Big Cats Society, claimed more than 2,000 sightings occurred in a single year. The research claimed Devon recorded the highest number of sightings, with more than 100 incidents. The skull of a Puma was found in the county in 2001.

A reward for the beast's capture was even offered by a national newspaper in the 1970s after farmers complained of livestock being violently killed.

Herald readers will be aware of sightings closer to home over the years. Share your experiences - email becca.gliddon@archant.co.uk

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