Big Cat DNA Confirmed In UK Sheep Attack
Monday 27th, May 2024
Lake District, UK - The DNA of a big cat, likely a leopard, has been identified from a swab taken from a dead sheep in the Lake District. This marks the first time big cat DNA has been found on a carcass in the UK, adding substantial weight to the theory that non-native big cats are present in the British countryside.

The DNA analysis was performed at the University of Warwick by a team led by Professor Robin Allaby. Despite the challenges associated with lifting DNA from carcasses, Allaby confirmed the results without hesitation. "It makes me a convert", Allaby told BBC Wildlife. "Until now, I have remained open-minded, I think that’s my job as a scientist".

Allaby's team has previously identified a claw sent anonymously from northern England as belonging to a cat in the Panthera genus. The testing service at Warwick was established 12 years ago following the discovery of a scavenged roe deer carcass near Stroud in Gloucestershire. That investigation only found fox DNA, which Allaby highlighted as a significantly underestimated predator in the region.

The most recent case arose when Cumbrian resident Sharon Larkin-Snowden discovered a sheep carcass in an undisclosed upland area. Speaking on Rick Minter’s Big Cat Conversations podcast, Larkin-Snowden recounted how she stumbled upon the fresh carcass one October morning last year and startled an animal that fled over a stone wall. "I assumed at first it was a sheepdog, but then I did a double take and realised it was a black cat" she said. "It was big - the size of a German shepherd dog".

Rick Minter, who has documented over 1,000 reports of big cat sightings, suggested that the animal was most likely a leopard. Among the five species in the Panthera genus - lion, leopard, tiger, jaguar, and snow leopard - the leopard and jaguar are known for their melanistic, or black, forms. However, jaguars are not typically found in the British countryside.

This discovery follows the 2022 finding of black animal hair on a barbed wire fence in Gloucestershire, which was also believed to belong to a big cat. These accumulating pieces of evidence strengthen the argument for the existence of these elusive predators in the UK.
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