“The deer was running for it’s life” said Betty. She was recounting an incident to me, in August 2014 when her husband was driving them back from work at night on the southern edge of Cirencester. She spotted the deer first and told her husband to slow down. As they stopped and watched the deer speed away, out came a black panther into the road. It turned quickly to look at the car, then continued, jumping a roadside wall in the same direction as the deer. Betty described the cat as ” a beautiful animal ” and identical to the one shown in the newspaper, for which they used a stock picture. She and her husband had kept this to themselves, for fear of ridicule, but with other Cirencester reports being published in the Wiltshire and Cotswold Standard (linked above) over the winter she felt it was now time to speak up. The photo in the paper was a large black leopard – certainly a male. Other witnesses had described a black panther recently right up close to the town, near the hospital and Roman ampitheatre, where witnesses had reported them before.
Betty wanted to know if they are dangerous. She had been living in nearby rented accommodation in the countryside but not going for country walks despite her husbands’ encouragement, because of what she saw up-close from the car than night. I tried to put her mind at ease as much a possible. So here was a person with the mixed emotions of facing a big cat, and right on the doorstep of our study in Cirencester at the Royal Agricultural University.
As a result of the Winter 2014-15 reports around Cirencester I spoke to a Parish Council Chair in the area. She emailed me the following personal view on the matter: “I’d like to think that there are a few big cats around, quietly getting on with their lives. I’d also like to be lucky enough to see one, but I don’t think that’s something we can seek to do, it has to come as an unexpected gift.”