Is there a healthy breeding population of leopards in the UK?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by SarahEllard, Jul 27, 2021.

  1. SarahEllard Registered Member

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  3. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    What you may notice about this article is:

    1) a total absence of any actual evidence (paw prints, droppings or whatever) for this hypothesis,

    2) the fact that someone has a new documentary to promote.

    3) It is the very end of July, i.e. the start of what is known as the "Silly Season" in newsrooms up and down the UK:

    Wake me up when someone traps one, or identifies it from DNA in its droppings, or produces other real hard evidence.

    Meanwhile, my provisional answer is "probably no".
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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    There is a wild cat in the Isles - mostly in Scotland. It's an endangered species, with a fan base of people who pay a lot of hopeful attention to any sign of wild felines.

    Their population of a few thousand at most is barely large enough for breeding viability, and already requires thousands of square miles - a viable breeding population of leopards or pumas, which are significantly larger and need more land, would have to number in the hundreds at least. Consider also that the landscape of the Isles has been largely deforested.

    If there were leopards or pumas around these people probably would have spotted them long ago:
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  7. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    The Scottish wild cat is more or less the size of the domestic cat, and even interbreeds with it. But good point about the population size and range required for big cats.

    England, even rural Devon and Cornwall, is fairly densely populated. If there were such creatures established there, there really ought by now to be unambiguous evidence. But every year, around now, to fill up empty newspaper columns, we get stories like this one:

    complete with farcical picture of what is fairly clearly a domestic cat.

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  8. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    If a population of big cats existed in the UK, they probably would have visited deserted human communities in the COVID lockdowns of last year, as they did in other parts of the world:

    Wild Cougar Wanders Empty Streets of Chile's Capitol

    For instance, wild goats did enter an abandoned Welsh town, indicating their non-controversial presence in the UK:

    Herd of Wild Goats Invade Empty Welsh Seaside Town

    Wild cougar wanders empty streets of Chile's capital
  9. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    This is from google gallery of Scottish wild cats.

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    Most (75% or more) stripes unbroken Tabby markings with few or no spots No white feet Dorsal line absent from tail Distinct tail bands Thick, ringed blunt-tipped tail Black tail tip

    As compared to Bobcats.

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    • Unlike the domesticated house cat, bobcats enjoy the water and are very good swimmers.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Yes we too can use the internet.

    But we discipline ourselves to post on-topic, instead of derailing the thread with irrelevance.
  11. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Lol, The OP questions if there is a healthy breeding population of Leopards in the UK.

    So far the responders have shown examples of Cougar/puma in Chile, Wild Goats in Wales, Scottish wild cats in Scotland? , but not a single example of a Leopard in the UK.
    And all that is perfectly fine to your acute sensibilities.

    Yet when I compare a Scottish Wild cat to a US Bobcat you accuse me of derailing the thread?
    Please, this is becoming really tiresome. Can you just lighten up a little? Just a little......?

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    Last edited: Jul 30, 2021
  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Those examples were to make a point relevant to the issue, viz. (i) the range required to support such animals, and (ii) the likelihood that empty streets during lockdown would encourage such creatures, if there were any, to come into human habitation, where they could be seen. Whereas this shit about bobcats and their swimming ability (for Christ's sake!) has bugger all to do with the thread subject.

    This is typical of you. You just on go on the internet and post any old crap with any tenous connection to something someone has mentioned, whether it sheds light on the thread topic or not. In this case it tells us nothing at all of any relevance whatsoever. This is thread hijacking, for which you are notorious.

    To reiterate, this thread is not for posting random stuff about random members of the cat family that you happen to come across on the internet. It is specifically about the likelihood or not of big cats of some sort having established a breeding population in the Southwest of England.
  13. Write4U Valued Senior Member


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    Looks a lot like a Wild Scottish cat except for the tail. Maybe they swam across the Atlantic, settled in South England and regrew long tails. How's that for a scientific hypothesis?
    I see, and wild goats in Wales are pertinent to this thread? Do cougars eat wild goats?
    I see, reports of cougar sightings in Chile are pertinent to the conversation?

    And where did the OP mention anything at all about sightings in villages under covid lockdown? Any sighting would prove what ? That there is a lone cougar lose in the streets or that there is a breeding population of cougars anywhere in England? We recently had a tiger loose in the streets 0f Houston. (

    Would that show there is a wild breeding population of tigers in the US. That argument won't fly, mister.

    But according to you that would have been permissible in context of the OP.

    And so far none of the posts have addressed the OP question. This thread was hijacked the moment it started.
    Now you may make up some spurious sidetrack about wild animals invading abandoned villages, but that has NOTHING to do with the OP question about breeding populations anywhere in the world.

    To reiterate, you're skating on thin ice with your ad hominem and you know it.
    "The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks" (loosely translated from English).

    p.s learn to spell "tenuous" if you want to use it in a serious scientific argument.
  14. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Of course there is. Just ask Douglas Adams.

    “But the plans were on display…”
    “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
    “That’s the display department.”
    “With a flashlight.”
    “Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
    “So had the stairs.”
    “But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
    “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
  15. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    If you want to report me you are free to do so.

    I stand by my criticism of your irrelevant posting of stuff you have looked up on the internet. You do it all the time.
  16. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Yes, the internet is a fantastic library and the stuff I look up is always relevant to the OP, even if it may seem only tangentially related. That is how I find the articles that pertain to a specific subject. I do a search, and presto, lots of information. I do try to select interesting details from reliable sources from among the wealth of information available. No different than going to any other library. The internet is just infinitely larger and more diversified.

    I have never been accused of posting woo for long. My choices may sometimes seem out-of-the-box but always prove to have merit after closer scrutiny.

    Note that it was not I who complained about off-topic posts by others. It was you who complained about only my post and you have reported me in the past. You do that all the time.

    I just look for interesting and informative posts. If that is only tangently related to the OP, I am a happy guy. I like to look at things from different perspectives. I find it informative. (Roger Antonsen taught me that)
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Yep. It's called hijacking and it's against forum rules.

    Sci Fo Rules:
    • Post on-topic. Avoid going off on a tangent - if you have to, start a new thread.
    Behaviour that may get you banned
    • Repeated off-topic posting.

    And make no mistake: whether or not you get officially slapped for it, there's no question that it's rude and self-serving.

    :Reported for admitting to be knowingly, deliberately and habitually dragging posts off-topic.:
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  18. Bells Staff Member

    Mod Note

    That's great!

    But if you wish to discuss Bobcats and comparing them to the Scottish wild cats, then perhaps you should start a thread on that subject matter.

    You have made 4 posts in this thread. Two were about Bobcats and two were responses and complaints that others were correctly pointing out that you were attempting to derail the thread.

    While you may do a search and find lots of information, it would be terrific if you were able to do a search and post on the subject matter of the thread.
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  19. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I am not going to waste any more time on this silliness. The thread never was about Scottish wild cats! The thread was about breeding populations of two species of large cats, leopards and pumas, in England.
    OK ?

    Out of 8 posts in response to the OP only one post addressed the sighting of a puma, and that was in Chile, South America, not South England.

    The rest of the posts had nothing to do with leopards or pumas which was the OP subject!

    I did not introduce Scottish wild cats, nor Wild goats, not Alsatians into this conversation.

    It was exchemist who introduced the Alsation cat into the thread.
    I showed a picture of a Scottish wild cat, with a comparison to an American bobcat. And I am being called for hijacking this stupid thread? You can't be serious about this.

    All that everyone here has done is indict themselves, but you found a domesticated "scapegoat" to blame for this disaster. How convenient.

    I think I am due an apology for this "misunderstanding". I am being very civilized about this.

    Last edited: Aug 1, 2021
  20. exchemist Valued Senior Member


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  21. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    There are repeated reports of big cats in the UK. I doubt very much whether they are native species in those islands. There is a possibility (however remote) that a few big cats were brought in (probably illegally and probably as juveniles) as exotic pets and then escaped or released to go feral.

    My own guess (that's all that it can be) is that the answer is probably 'no'. Certainly not 'thriving' since if that was the case, there would be more unambiguous sightings.

    So I'm more inclined to interpret this as another example of modern folklore. That should be fascinating in its own right to anyone with a halfway scientific sensibility. It's just that it might be less a zoological phenomenon than a sociological one. I'm reminded of chupacabras here in the United States. This is an alleged cryptozoological animal whose range just happens to coincide with areas of Mexican and Central American settlement in the US. We have no reports of chupacabras where there are few Mexicans, but the reports multiply as the Mexicans do. Suggesting that the chupacabras are folkloric in that community and not an actual animal.

    Large cats are native where I live, between San Francisco and San Jose in California. We call them 'mountain lions'. Their range is extensive, throughout the western hemisphere from the Yukon to Chile. They are known by a variety of names in different places, sometimes 'mountain lions' as is the case here, other times 'cougars', other times 'pumas'. Plus some Spanish names in South America. Same animal, different names.

    They were exterminated in the eastern United States during the 18th and 19th centuries, but isolated apocryphal sightings continue to be reported in wide areas of the Midwest, not unlike the situation in the UK. Except that these sightings in places like Wisconsin and Michigan and as far east as Quebec in Canada have been accompanied by physical evidence such as hair (upon which dna tests were done) and even the occasional individual tranquilized by animal control officers. So there's little doubt that they are there in small numbers.

    Young males are known to travel widely to escape territories of other males and to seek mates. Many hundreds of miles. So if there was a breeding population of these cats in the UK, young males could be expected to travel throughout the islands in a vain search for females of their kind and places where they can establish their own territories.

    Here in California, it's known that there is an active breeding population just a few miles west of my home. These cats are very secretive and rarely seen by humans. But as their population increases and food becomes scarce, there's some fear that they might try to take small children or dogs. I don't recall it happening though. These are large cats that are known to take down bison in Yellowstone and could easily kill an adult human, so it's a concern. Around here I think that they mostly eat our very abundant deer. As long as the deer population holds up, they probably aren't tempted to attack game that they perceive as more dangerous.

    But again, they prefer to avoid humans as much as possible so they are rarely seen. One thing that's been happening though, is that they are ranging into suburban neighborhoods in order to raid trashcans, where they trigger home security cameras. So there are lots of photos of them in people's back yards, some only a few blocks from my house. And sometimes they get cornered in the residential neighborhoods where animal control officers shoot them with darts, put them to sleep, and return them to the open space areas where they live.

    So I've never seen one with my own eyes, but there's abundant evidence of their presence around where I live. In the UK, the scarcity of that kind of evidence suggests to me that if they are present, they are present in very small numbers.

    Mountain lion in Montana (photo from wikipedia commons)

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    Last edited: Aug 1, 2021
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  22. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I'm busted. Ok - I did some research into pumas in North America, especially video explications which are popular here among those serious about the likelihood of breeding populations of leopards and/or (interchangeably?) pumas in England, and found this:

    The discussion of the range and habitat requirements for viable populations of NA pumas begins around 2:15.
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  23. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    You'll never hear me complain about an informative side-bar. I believe that much more interesting information is shared in a free-flowing conversation that is at least tangently related to the OP, than writing a single line proving or debunking the OP.
    And an occasional humorous interlude is ok by me...

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