Suffolk woodland or foreign jungle? Barton Mills resident spots ‘big cat’ in Mildenhall Woods

This large animal, potentially a big cat, was photographed in Derbyshire in 2007. Credit: Paul Westwood of Big Cat Monitor
This large animal, potentially a big cat, was photographed in Derbyshire in 2007. Credit: Paul Westwood of Big Cat Monitor

A West Suffolk resident got more than he bargained for while walking near Mildenhall Woods last week when he spotted what he thought was a big cat.

John Berrett, of Barton Mills, was walking with his wife in Thetford Road, Mildenhall, on September 1 when he spotted a large ‘cat-like’ creature through the trees.

John said: “We were gobsmacked to see it. It was just too big for a domestic cat and the tail was very long and looping.

“We looked at each other in amazement. We have no doubt that this was a wild creature.

“In my 70 years I have only seen creatures like this on TV or in the zoo.”

John is not alone in believing he has spotted a big cat in the area. Rumours of the ‘Fen Tiger’ circulate throughout East Anglia, with nearly 70 sightings of large cats recorded in Cambridgeshire alone since 1998.

John said: “I have heard stories of a ‘puma in Mildenhall Woods’ and just a few days ago, a deer carcass stripped to the bone was found near the same spot.”

In 1991 a lynx was shot dead in Beccles after killing about 15 sheep in a two-week period.

There were three sightings in Cambridgeshire in 2012/13.

Danny Bamping, of the British Big Cats Society, who has been studying big cats in Britain for 20 years, said: “Some of the best evidence of big cats in the UK comes from around Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk,” he said.

“In about 70 per cent of sightings the animals are black. The cats are mainly nocturnal, so are active at dawn and dusk.”

Danny said he became aware of the Beccles lynx in 2001.

“Lynxes are indigenous to this country, and they do keep the top of the food chain,” he added

Paul Westwood, of Big Cat Monitor group, said: “The vast majority of sightings appear to be of a large black cat near railway lines. They use those lines to get from place to place, but will also use pathways.”

Paul, whose website gets around six reported sightings a month, said there had been reports of a brown-coloured animal around Norfolk and Suffolk.

“One animal can be responsible for many sightings in different places. They can cover 70 miles in a day, for food or territory,” he said.

“The question is what are people seeing? Are they really seeing a leopard or a puma? No one has answered that question.”