Honest Big Cat Sighting

Here’s a great honest account of a recent possible sighting in Hamstreet , it isn’t saying it was or wasn’t, I’m sure the same as many possible sightings , when your brain 🧠 cannot process what you are actually seeing !
The other day I took one of my many walks, which I do to keep fit and see wildlife etc. Towards the end of about 6.5 miles I entered Hamstreet Woods from the far (north-east) end, on my way back to my car, parked in Hamstreet. The time would have then been about or just before 5 pm, which was sunset. I have done this walk on a number of previous occasions, and indeed have walked through those woods in pretty well complete darkness, only using a headtorch for assistance, It’s difficult to get lost in daylight, as the paths are well used, and the woods are only about 450 acres, so you’ll emerge into civilisation after not too great a distance. They take about 20 minutes of fairly brisk walking from one end to the other.
Anyway, for reasons which I can’t explain, I set off into woods along the wrong path! There is a choice of three on entry, and I took the central one instead of the right- hand one. I’d never walked this path before. I soon became aware of my mistake in the fading light, but opted to continue, reckoning that the new path wouldn’t take me too far off line, and that I could cut across at some point to my intended path. However, I had to get a move on, as I hadn’t packed a torch, and wanted to emerge from the wood before darkness came and I got lost. The path was quite narrow, and the wood at that point wasn’t too dense on the right, but a little bit more so on the left,
A short way into the wood, I thought I saw a movement of something just off the path on the left-hand side, and maybe 60-70 yards ahead, I was naturally interested, my initial thought being “I wonder if that’s a deer!” I had never previously seen deer in Hamstreet woods: they are quite heavily walked by strollers and dog-walkers, and possibly any deer would be disturbed a lot, and have become shy or moved away. I pressed on, and then the animal obviously turned (perhaps judging that it was too close to the edge of the wood to flee away to the left, and preferred to head into the depths of it) then passed briefly across the narrow path and away at speed into the trees and undergrowth to my right.
Now here’s the rub! My eyesight is currently poor, as I’ve developed cataracts (soon to be dealt with, I hope), so I cannot claim a clear sharp view of my animal. In addition, it moved so fast that it was only in sight for a few seconds; there was clearly no time to get my phone out of a deep pocket, let alone call up the camera. I just watched as best I could – believe me, my eyesight shortcomings left me very frustrated! So I am left with what I did see, and can summarise it as follows:
It was big, as big as a very big dog, maybe bigger. However, it was long and low, rather than stocky and doglike, if you get my meaning.
It was black.
It moved quickly away to my right, being soon lost by a combination of distance (my eyesight) and the trees, and its movement was silent: no clumsiness or crashing among fallen branches etc,
I could not swear on the Bible that I am 100% certain that I saw a big cat. However, I’ve turned it over in my mind and examined the possible candidates. My feeling suggests that these are either a cat, a dog, a melanistic (black fallow) deer, or a wild boar.
A dog I feel that I can rule out straightaway: the animal looked bigger, and of a different build, and it ran for it faster than a dog would have moved. A dog would surely have had a human in attendance, but there was no-one else there, Furthermore, a dog would have reacted differently. One of that size would not have fled precipitately at the range of 60-ish yards, It would surely have held its ground and weighed me up, or even advanced towards me. No, not a dog.
It had the wrong build and movement for a deer. Moreover, deer tend to occur in groups, and melanistic ones are relatively rare.
Again, its build seemed wrong for a boar, and I have never heard of boar being seen in Hamstreet Woods, though I wouldn’t rule them out. Also, boar usually run in groups (“sounders”), although old males are often solitary. Again though, I come back to the movement: my animal had a bounding movement, whereas a boar just runs on its rather skinny legs in more of an even movement.
My own view is that this was a black wild cat, and from its size I would suggest a leopard. Oddly enough I wasn’t at all frightened: the fascination wouldn’t allow that, and its obvious fear of me showed that fear on my part wouldn’t be sensible, I have never heard of anyone being attacked by a cat in this country, and I have walked through those woods in darkness unscathed. I was actually more scared of getting lost in the woods, as darkness was on its way.
One last thing. Why didn’t I look for prints? Really, I just didn’t think of it at the time. My thoughts were on what I’d seen, and getting through the wood before the real onset of darkness, I returned the following morning to look for prints, but I couldn’t remember the exact spot, and in any case the paths were all either firmly consolidated (and unable to show that prints of an animal) or awash with mud and water after overnight rain, and hopeless.
May be an image of big cat
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