A big cat was reported to be roaming the streets of Thornton earlier this summer, it has today emerged.
A member of the public called police after seeing the large animal on August 23, with other reports made from Blackburn, Bamber Bridge and Winmarleigh in recent years, Lancashire Police said.
Although it remains unclear what the person actually saw – or whether it was a big cat at all – the force searched its logs for reports of lions, tigers, pumas, jaguars, cougars, panthers, cheetahs, and leopards in response to a Freedom of Information request.
It said the report in Thornton was ‘from a member of the public genuinely believing they had seen an animal as described above’, though no animal is thought to have been traced.
In previous years, there have been several reports of big cats spotted in Lancashire, including one seen running around Burnley in 2011.
Officers took the call so seriously – with a resident describing the animal as large with a long tail and ‘tiger spots’ – it called DEFRA to see if one had been licensed in the area.
It became illegal to keep big cats in 1976, leading to fears some of the animals were left to roam the wild and breed.
In 1995, a government study found ‘no verifiable evidence’ of exotic felines loose in Britain, though it hasn’t stopped sightings such as that of the ‘Beast of Bodmin Moor’ (pictured above), which is said to roam around Cornwall.