Myth of big cats roaming Dartmoor since the late 1970’s may be true after several dogs mauled

The myth of big cats roaming Dartmoor may be true after all. If so, the cats may have migrated to Cornwall, a county on the southwestern coast of Devon in the UK.

big cat pawprint
big cat print (James Stephenson)
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The myth

It’s believed by some that back in 1978 three pumas were released into the wilds of Dartmoor. Mary Chipperfield owned a circus and her Plymouth zoo was forced to close.

Through the years there have been reports of wild cats across Devon and Cornwall.

What’s happening now

Dogs in the Dartmoor area are coming home with mysterious injuries. James Stephenson lives in the village of Callington in Cornwall, which is close to Dartmoor. He contacted authorities after his dog Marley was found with horrific claw marks on his shoulder.

Callington stated in an interview with The Telegraph

“He was covered in blood. He had a big deep gash on his front left leg and one between his toes. On his left shoulder was a big black claw mark, as if a muddy claw had scraped down the side of him. He’s still not interested in going out in the garden at night. He loves his garden and now can’t bear it.”

The police were able to take a cast of the prints and confirm they’re almost five inches. No cat of that size should be in the area, the RSPCA confirmed. James has seen a large cat prowling in his garden. It’s been determined the paw print is too large to be a domesticated cat.

map where big cats spotted

A large cat was spotted in Harrowbarrow, Cornwall where officers and the RSPCA were sent to investigate after a labrador was attacked and scratched by a large black cat. The owner is now keeping close watch over his dog when the dog is outside.

Risk to humans

The RSPCA says there’s no evidence the large cats are a danger to humans and the cats would most likely aoid human contact. They could present a danger if trapped or if food is involved. The Harrowbarrow area is being monitored in case there are future attacks.

Mythical wild cats or not, it’s important for dog as well as cat owners to protect their pets. This could mean supervised outdoor time or a very very secure fenced in area (or a well-constructed catio for cats).

There’s an interesting story here about the release of the puma’s. There is one graphic photo on the article but it’s worth the read.

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