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The Western Mail January 31, 2003

THE National Assembly is to call together representatives of all police forces in Wales to discuss claims that big cats are living and breeding in the countryside.

Officials will consider the catalogue of 170 sightings reported to police in the past eight years and the numerous reports of animal kills, including countless sheep, several dogs and two horses.

"Our wildlife experts are already working with police to collate all the data," said a National Assembly spokeswoman yesterday.

"But so far our experts have concluded that the horses and sheep were killed by dogs, alleged big cat paw prints have proved to be dogs', and video and audio evidence sent to us have been foxes."

The conclusions are in stark contrast to those reached by an American tracker who is certain that big cats are alive and breeding in Carmarthenshire. Tom Brown and Kevin Reeve of the New Jersey-based Tracker Inc say the cats are getting bolder and warn that a potentially fatal encounter is possible in the near future. Big cat hunters reacted angrily yesterday to suggestions by the National Assembly that they can't tell the difference between a cat and a badger. Pat Davies of Rhydcymerau, who has been charting the movements of big cats around her North Carmarthenshire home for more than four years, said the claim smacked of a cover-up.

"If they admit it's a big cat they are terrified that it will the open floodgates to compensation claims from farmers and damage the tourist industry," said Mrs Davies. She said Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Mike German's interpretation of inconclusive DNA tests as evidence that country people were seeing things was insulting as well as complacent. "We're not bothering with the Assembly any more. People are going to take the law into their own hands and shoot one."

Electronic microscopy tests on hairs found in the mouth of a whippet killed and disemboweled near a Llangadog small holding earlier this month were inconclusive.

"Tests undertaken at the Government's Central Science Laboratory in York found no trace of DNA from a black leopard, and electron microscopy analysis of hair found in the dog's mouth did not match those of a leopard," said the Assembly spokeswoman. "Tests revealed that most of the hairs were from a dog, although it was not possible to identify the breed.

"There was also some evidence that other hairs could be from a badger, although the quality of the sample was not good enough for this to be conclusive."

Mrs Davies said the test itself could hardly be described as comprehensive.

"I've been down to the horse mart in Llanybydder today and people are absolutely disgusted," she said.

"They're asking whether Mr German thinks we're all stupid."

Police marksmen who saw the animal are also convinced it was a big cat, and farm worker Mike Sheppard insists he knows what he saw when he came across the animal standing over the dog's corpse.

"It was a big cat. It hissed at me and stood its ground," he said.

The American trackers back local people unequivocally.

"We can state without reservation that there is at least one mountain lion and one black panther, probably a melanistic leopard in the Rhydcmerau/Brechfa region," said Mr Brown, who visited Carmarthenshire late last year.

The trackers were called in after numerous sightings and the deaths of sheep and a Shiatzu dog.

They found cat tracks in several locations as well as areas where cats had lain in hiding preparing for an attack.

"It is our belief that the forest in the area provides the cover and escape routes they need to maintain their relative secrecy, and that the sheep in the area provide an unlimited source of food," said Mr Brown.

"There have been several human/ cat interactions that would lead us to believe that the cats are slowly loosing their fear of humans and it is likely that there will be a deadly encounter between humans and the cats in the near future."

Mr Brown has been involved in hundreds of tracking cases, including locating lost hunters and hikers, tracking and pursuit of fugitives, and tracking escaped animals.

He is the author of 16 books on tracking and wilderness themes.

His Survival School in New Jersey has trained more than 25,000 people in the arts of tracking.

Mr Brown's report has been sent to the National Assembly.

This website has no official or informal connection to the Tracker School or Tom Brown Jr. whatsoever


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