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SIGHTINGS: Three big cat encounters in Chirk

panther at kronospan chirk
Artists impression

Three members of the public have reported sightings of big cats around Chirk. One of these encounters took place in the last fortnight while the others were reported in November and December last year, though due to the huge volume of sightings we receive we’re only sharing them now.

March 2023 sighting

Chirk puma sighting location

The most recent encounter involved a black animal and took place around 8:45 PM on Tuesday 28th March near Lady Margaret’s Caravan Park, adjacent to Chirk Castle and the industrial complex which includes the Kronospan factory.

Kara told us: “I was a passenger driving down from the Chirk Caravan site – next to the estate – and I saw a very large animal on top of a low structure. I can’t give anymore detail because it was completely backlit by the industrial area behind (factory?mine?) but the animal was way bigger than a dog!

“I turned to the driver and said ‘omg I’ve just seen a bear or a wild cat, like a massive f*ck off cat!!’

“I Kept trying to look again but the hedges were too high. She didn’t believe me so I searched wild cats in Chirk area and found Puma Watch.”

December 2022 sighting

Chirk church sighting

A man reported an encounter with what he believes to be a brown or tawny leopard close to Chirk town centre, around 800 metres from Kara’s sighting above.

The sighting took place around 10:30pm on Friday 30th December. The animal crossed Trevor Road into the churchyard, coming from the direction of the River Ceiriog valley.

Steven told us: “The animal walked across Trevor road, and was startled by my car headlights. It ran away into the Churchyard to the side of the road. I got a very good view and I’m certain that it was a Leopard. It was too big to be a pet cat and the wrong build.”

November 2022 sighting

Puma in chirk woods
Artists impression

This encounter involves a large blck animal and took place around 8:15PM on Wednesday 23rd November.

Louis Winter told us: “I was walking my dog on the field next to my house and I heard branches snap in the woods behind my house. My dog was nervous at this point and then I heard a large thud against the wall that lines the woods behind my back garden. ar —

“I shined my head torch up and there was something large and black looking at me and my dog for a good 10 seconds, my dog was nervous and was backing up towards me slowly and cowered between me legs and it just dropped down back into the woods without making a sound.”

Previous chirk sightings

The new sightings have been added to our interactive map

In spring 2021, the Chirk area saw a cluster of sightings involving animals matching a similar description. In April, Dan reported a “huge black cat” on the disused railway line near the A5 level crossing on the A5 road from Chirk to Oswestry.

The day before Dan’s sighting, Georgia spotted a big cat in the Chirk McDonald’s car park, at the A483 / A5 junction known as the Halton Roundabout.

Pontcysyllte Panther zoomed
The panther caught on camera by Nicole

That same week, Nicola caught a “massive cat like a panther” on camera at Ty Mawr Country Park near Cefn Mawr, around a mile and a half from Chirk. The next month, in May 2021, Claire Evans and her sister both spotted “a stockily-built cat with orange eyes” again on the A5 between Chirk and Oswestry, this time near the Whittington Road roundabout.

A few miles further up the A483, last week we shared two new reports of big cats in the Wrexham area. They follow countless others across North East Wales, including a police investigation into a “huge black panther” with a face “the size of a dinner plate” near Ruabon in May 2020.

Warrington Panther
File photo

Big cats such as pumas are solitary with a hunting range of dozens of miles. They’re mostly spotted in Snowdonia and the Clwydian hills but reports of sightings in urban locations some distance from these areas are becoming more frequent.

As seen with Llandundo’s now-famous goats, who have taken to roaming the town’s deserted streets during the coronavirus lockdowns, it’s likely that the reduced levels of human activity during the pandemic encouraged big cats to roam further from the hills into more populated areas. Despite human activity returning to near pre-pandemic levels, it seems many big cats are now happy to stay in their new territory.

Large black cat
File photo

When big cats were banned as pets in the 1970s, it was legal to release them into the countryside to avoid expensive rehoming costs. Owners from across the UK travelled to areas like Wales to release their cats in the remote environment, where small but significant populations have thrived ever since.

In 2021, the Welsh Government responded to the recent spate of sightings and confirmed the steps they take to investigate any reported to them, including taking casts of paw prints.

A visitor to a Snowdonia animal rescue centre back in 1994 recently claimed he was introduced to four puma kittens. He said: “I strongly suspect that these were released into the wild as they had no paperwork and no money to feed or house them.

“They certainly weren’t there six months later.”

Any further sightings can be reported to us via this form.

Black panther on rock
File photo

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