POLICE in Ayrshire have issued a safety warning after reports of a black panther roaming in the area.
Residents in Drongan and Coalhall, near Ayr, are being advised to be vigilant after a big cat was allegedly spotted in fields near to the B730 between the two villages.
POLICE SAFETY WARNING – DRONGAN AND COALHALL
Officers are asking residents to be vigilant after a report has been received of a sighting of what is believed to be a black panther in the fields near to the B730. Do not approach it, contact Police via 101.https://t.co/77r8msC3ds pic.twitter.com/psFmPUHWDD
— AyrshirePolice (@AyrshirePolice) October 19, 2018
Officers have been unable to trace the animal following a search aided by a helicopter.
A police statement said: “The area is popular with dog walkers so care should be taken and if anyone sees the animal we would ask you not to approach it, but to contact Police via 101 quoting incident number 0780 of Friday 19 October 2018.”
A spokeswoman added: “A thorough search of the area was carried out this morning with assistance from the police helicopter.
“However, officers have been unable to trace the animal.
“Officers are currently liaising with a expert in order to confirm the identity of the animal.”
Scottish SPCA animal rescue officer Alistair Hill told STV: “We can confirm we have received reports regarding a possible panther sighting in Ayr.
“We have liaised with Police Scotland and informed them that we are unequipped to deal with such animals and therefore will not be involved in investigating the incident.”
Alan Green owns an upholstery business which overlooks the fields where the panther sighting was reported.
He said: “I’ve not seen it personally but where it’s supposedly been sighted is just out the back of my workshop.
“I’ve seen the police helicopter up and roundabout.
“I’m not unduly concerned. When I first heard about it thought ‘a black panther here?’ but maybe it could be true.”
Big cats in the UK
The UK’s climate and habitat is, scientists believe, unlikely to support a breeding population of big cats.
Yet, over the years, there have been hundreds of alleged sightings, including north of the border.
The Beast of Buchan is a phantom cat sighted in Aberdeenshire a number of times since the 1930s. Alex Salmond even raised concerns over attacks on livestock in Parliament in 1997.
Cruden Bay has seen a number of incidents attributed to the ‘Beast’.
In the south of Scotland, the Galloway Puma was first ‘spotted’ by tourists near Newton Stewart in the late 1990s.
Locals have also said they’ve seen the big cat in following years.
Most sightings in the UK have turned out to be hoaxes or misidentification.
In one case earlier this year in Peterhead, armed police swooped to tackle what a farmer claimed was a tiger on the loose, but turned out to be a cuddly toy.
Before 1976’s Dangerous and Wild Animals Act, it was possible to keep big cats as pets.
If there are such animals in the wild in the UK, it is likely that they are either released pets, either by escape or purposefully set free.
It is possible too that they may have bred in the wild.