Historic report from Chillesford, Suffolk, August 2016.

Reports coming in to via the big cat reporting page of this website have tailed off in recent months and are now rare again. So I was pleased to receive recently one such from a witness who saw a big cat in Chillesford (near Woodbridge, Suffolk) very early one August morning in 2016, while driving with his two dogs towards Tunstall Forest.

The witness described an “enormous” black cat, almost twice the size of his Labrador, sitting on the road eating a rabbit. He saw the animal for about a minute as he approached in his car, with his dogs silently staring at it.

The animal looked at him with “piercing” eyes, he could see the points of his four big canine teeth. He described the big cat’s long tail as very “curving.” It had “tiny ears” that were barely visible. When he got close, the big cat dropped the rabbit and bounded away through a field of “corn” (wheat?), the witness stopped the car and got out and was able to see the end of the animal’s tail above the crop as it ran through the field.

He also told how an acquaintance told him shortly after how  he’d seen a big cat a couple of weeks before in Aldeburgh, and when he was looking for information online shortly afterwards he came across an EADT report of a couple having seen a big cat in Melton shortly before. That’s not a report I’m aware of, so I will track it down if it’s correct.

I have had very few reports from back in 2016, this one is only the third report of a big cat seen in the county that I’ve received for that year.

 

Fortean Times magazine runs extract from Mystery Animals of Suffolk

The June 2024 issue (FT 444) of Fortean Times magazine (strapline: “The World of Strange Phenomena”) includes an extract from Mystery Animals of Suffolk. It’s basically most of Chapter 4 : Freshwater Mermaids and Miscellaneous Manimals, very slightly adapted.

For reasons of copyright and because it’s in colour, the illustrations are different to the ones in the book.  There will be a link to the extract from this page once the First British Serial copyright has expired and the next issue of Fortean Times is out.

The screenshot below is – for now – blurred to protect Fortean Times’s copyright in their layout and typography.

For Fortean Times’s five-star review of Mystery Animals of Suffolk, see here.

Screenshot

Mystery Animals of Suffolk features in Living In Suffolk… magazine

Mystery Animals of Suffolk – and in particular the big cats of Suffolk – feature in an article in the current issue of the Living In Suffolk… magazine series. (Issue 43, Spring 2024.)

There’s a link to the online edition here. You’ll have to swipe through (or click through) to page 24.

Living In Suffolk Coastal is also available for free in print in various community centres and shops in Suffolk Coastal, including the local East of England Co-op stores. As far as I’m aware, the article appears in all the other local print editions of Living In Suffolk.

I should point out that while I did in the interview say that I spotted “something like Black Shuck” from the train approaching Darsham, they left out the bit I said immediately after that. This was the bit in which I added that I was almost 100 per cent certain that it was a calf in a nearby field, seen from a speeding train at 50mph in very misty conditions.

Mystery Animals of Suffolk reviewed in Fortean Times – five stars!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fortean Times, issue FT443 (April 2024) has a review of Mystery Animals of Suffolk by its deputy editor Ian Simmons:
“A cut above the usual local mystery book… this is an example of how a regional cryptozoology book ought to be written.” (The full text of the review will appear on this website shortly.)

Woodwoses and wildmen in Butley 24 April, big cats in Dunwich 20 June

I have a talk on The Woodwoses and Wildmen of Suffolk for Orford Museum on Wednesday 24 April 2024, it’s at Butley Priory (nearest station Wickham Market), starting at 6.15pm, finishing at 7.15.

Book tickets in advance – £18 for non-members of Orford Museum via the Museum’s online booking system.

Signed copies of Mystery Animals of Suffolk will be on sale at a discount.

More details are here.

This talk replaces the  talk on the big cats of Suffolk previously advertised at the same venue on the same date.

There is a completely different talk on the big cats of Suffolk on Saturday 20 June 2024 at 6pm at Dunwich Museum, St James’s Street, Dunwich, Suffolk (nearest station Darsham, a 45-minute bike ride).

Admission is by donation. There’s no need to book, but  let the Museum know if you plan to come via events@dunwichmuseum.org.uk so they know how many people are coming. Signed copies of Mystery Animals of Suffolk will be on sale at a discount at this talk too. Details will be on the Dunwich Museum website shortly.

 

Something interesting caught on a trail cam in Rendlesham


An animal caught on a trail cam in Rendlesham. See below for the mundane explanation. Still images: copyright © Mark Veitch

A witness contacted me in February 2023 wanting to show me some images from a night vision trail cam they’d deployed in woodland on the edge of Rendlesham Forest, just outside the Forestry Commission estate and nearer the village and industrial estate.

They’d had the camera up for just over two weeks when they saw an interesting animal they thought might be a “large cat.” Many people do everything on their phones now and don’t have laptops, so the witness had only been able to see the video on a tiny screen without being able to zoom in on images. We agreed to meet so I could plug their trail cam’s SD card into an iPad Pro with its bigger screen so we could take a look.

By the time Mike (the witness) met with me, he said he was less certain what he’d seen was a big cat. His trail cam had videoed dozen of deer (mostly muntjacs), a couple of dogs with dog walkers and a fox for comparison.

Within a very short time of being able to plug the SD card into a bigger screen and zoom in on it, we’d both concluded what he’d caught on camera was in fact a fox. It was an odd-looking fox – it had a shorter than usual snout and a threadbare tail, making it look less fox-like and more cat-like. In one still image you can see just the still identifiable thick brush tail of a fox after  the rest of the animal has disappeared into the undergrowth.

This shows how easy it is to misidentify animals, particularly with all the on-screen artefacts that low resolution video shot at night generates.

Mark is continuing to operate his trail cam. There have been a lot of big cats (black leopards, lynxes or bobcats, pumas) seen in the immediate vicinity over the years. There also seem to be a lot of deer passing through. Big cats follow the deer.

For more misidentifications that turned out not to be big cats after all, see here.

Yearling muntjac likely predated on by lynx, jungle cat or “wildcat-sized beast”

 Spine and pelvis of  young muntjac showing signs of predation, with an adult men’s boot for scale, found in Ditchingham, Norfolk. © Tommy McCarthy

I received these photos of the partial skeleton of  “yearling muntjac”, a young muntjac about a year old. They were found about a quarter of a mile from a road, on a river walk near a stream which is close to the All Hallows’ Convent, the old nunnery in Ditchingham, which is just over the Norfolk border, a short distance from Bungay. My thanks to Tommy McCarthy.

Dorset big cat expert Jonathan McGowan, who’s been studying British big cats and their kill signs for over 40 years, concluded that it was “likely” the result of a big cat kill by a “lynx, jungle cat or wildcat-sized beast.” (I have been following up on several reports in the Woodbridge area recently of exceptionally large feral cats caught on trail cams, there will be an update on this shortly.)  McGowan said it probably wasn’t a kill by a leopard or puma, as they could swallow or chomp up most of the spine without much difficulty, and wouldn’t bother to strip it down in this way.

McGowan said he couldn’t completely rule out a fox as the predator, because foxes would be able to bite off the ends of the ribs quite easily.

 

 

 

Rewinding – Beavers released in Suffolk

The Beaver Trust announced in its Twitter/X feed on 5 January 2024 that it had the previous week released a family of beavers onto “a site in Suffolk,” reintroducing wild beavers into the county for the first time in 400 years.

It is hoped that beavers would help alleviate flooding and boost biodiversity locally. The location of the beaver family’s site is being kept secret for now.