The Princes Risborough Puma
The problem with eye witness reports is you simply have to hold faith in the person providing their account. Interestingly my 15 years chasing large cats around the valleys of the Chilterns has taken the wind out of such scepticism.
Often I have found myself sitting at home giving myself a harsh talking to about these phenomena. You do realise this is just too unreal to be taken seriously! Do you want there to be large cats out there? Is your research merely reinforcing your delusional utopia?
One thing that stood out to me was the very real presence of the animals we were always on the tail of. Krishna knew their routes from rocky outcrops less than a mile from one of the biggest most populated cities on the planet. We would come across fresh urine literally still dripping from boulders sometimes around the perimeter of human habitation.
Krishna would sometimes pause, look at me and say you 'know one is watching us right now?' I would look back smiling with a repetitive nod. The feeling of being watched a sense I believe we have carried with us from historical times. If you have never had that feeling you simply would not understand. I tell you something I have had this same sensation much closer to home!
In their environment they are masters Indeed leopards and pumas have been shown to have levels of problem solving intelligence. As I sit here writing I am analysing yet another sighting of a puma reported last night to Thames Valley Police. Am I surprised? Not anymore.
Last Night on Friday the 30 of December one of Buckinghamshire’s Pumas became a reality for yet another person. Turning out of the driveway, only fifty metres from her front door seeing a fully grown Puma in the headlights. Staring clearly at a large predatory cat native to the Americas comes as a shock when living in Princes Risborough. The lady did what any other sensible person would do. Call the police.
I always assumed there would be the odd person making up stories. Well I can tell you something I now believe 90% of the sightings I get are genuine and not misidentifications.
I get called to the same places year after year after year with the same species being seen. What interests me even more is these clusters go back 40 years. More than double the life span of both pumas and leopards.
I have consistently been responding to the sightings of very urban pumas that come into Princes Risborough. The cemetery of St Marys Church has seen two direct sightings come to my inbox in the past 3 years. I have had sightings from the local leisure centre and three from a local housing estate next to the brook. For me it is never an ‘odd sighting’ it is a consistent stream of sightings reports which goes back decades.
I have many reports of cats dragging away dead dear and badgers from rural roads. It was no surprise I received such a report in 2012 of a puma like cat next to a deer carcass on the A4010. The Bucks Free Press also lists a very clear sighting of a puma crossing this road at night.
In my opinion they thrive here! There is simply so much food I would even suggest they currently fill an important ecological niche for our countryside.
Pumas living and breeding in Buckinghamshire?
Why? Well in order to quite simply rationalise this you would need at least 50 animals spread across the whole UK to even give you a chance of subsequent generations turning up in the same rural village! The fact there are significant clusters from Scotland to Lands End can give at least some perspective. Pumas can travel extremely long distances but where food is plentiful territories are always smaller in size.
One of the first mistakes I made researching Big Cats of the Chilterns was spending all my time in the woods! Many sightings have taken me to familiar locations locally I simply never knew existed. Some of these include; an overgrown, derelict scout hut, a disused M.O.D housing estate and an abandoned farm. Not only do they have dry homes to go to they even have sofas!
Why have they not been found one yet? Well I can assure you! Grown men which crawl around in rural thickets all day smelling of big cat pheromone are in short supply. I can vouch for that personally. A puma was trapped in Scotland and many have been knocked down on roads. All seem to be seen by dozens of people but all seem to go missing before researchers can get there.
In the last two years we have had some very interesting sightings which strongly indicate puma breeding in this part of the Chilterns. One sighting took place near High Wycombe the other at Watlington.
The first was a gentleman called Darren who was walking his dog near Wycombe air field. He was very clear in what he described to be a young puma. It was obvious Darren knew his wildlife. The behaviour described is consistent with what you would expect of a young puma playing and stalking. On subsequent visits with Darren we found foxes killed and eaten out with clear punctures to the throat.
The cats came from the direction of the wooded slopes connected to a nature reserve with a long history of big cat sightings.
Leopards verses Pumas
I had always collected many sightings from the Chiltern Hills. The majority of sightings from the show were local to the Aylesbury Vale and northern parts of Buckinghamshire. These were always black animals with hardly any sandy coloured pumas. I had one very urban sighting of a puma however from Stewkley back in 2009.
What I find fascinating from my research is these two species must live alongside each other. There have been studies done on the territory interactions of Puma and Jaguar but these fill slightly different ecological niches. Puma and Leopard being so similar in size supposedly would fill the same ecological niche. What effect this would have on the cats in Buckinghamshire is up for discussion. I would guess that food availability would be a major factor on this.
High Wycombe to Princes Risborough.
Why do Pumas in the Chilterns like the streets and back gardens of these two towns? Is it simply they get seen more in these environments? Do they feed off the spoils of people? Foxes do!
Are they dangerous?
In the USA it averages at about 1 death per year at the very most. I would guess that would be zero with good food availability and no accidental cornering. These points I am speculating on but let’s get some perspective. In the UK on average 10 people a year are killed by horses and 7 people killed by cows.
Will we ever get a photo?
What does the future hold?
Extermination has already been attempted locally but the animal is never caught. In my opinion Britain is too divided up by boundaries, private land, derelict land, quarries, urban areas, railways and rural habitats. It is extremely difficult to get to an animal that knows how to exploit these environments in the dead of night.
For me The Princes Risborough puma seems to rear its head every other year. It seems to like this particular area for some reason. Last night’s sighting is another pin on the map within the town. Why? I just do not have a decisive answer but one thing is for sure this will not be the last sighting of a Puma in Princes Risborough.
The idea a single Puma is moving huge distances across the country become less likely with such concentrated urban, sightings, clusters. Especially over many decades.
My ongoing research into the Big Cats of the Chilterns plots sightings clusters and aims to collect physical and video evidence. Please feel free to follow the Facebook page for more updates.
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