The Beast Of Merthyr? Pet Owners Told To Lock Up Animals After Sighting Of 'Panther-Like' Creature
They are the elusive shadows that stalk the countryside, feeding on sheep and terrorising rural communities – but a big cat now appears to have found its way to one of Wales’ most densely populated areas. Experts warned pet owners in Merthyr Tydfil to lock up their animals after a “panther-like” creature was spotted prowling on the outskirts of the Valleys town. Coach driver Robert Davies, of Hirwaun, was driving home from work when he claims he saw a large black cat “bounding” across the A470 near Merthyr. The 61-year-old was turning off a roundabout near Cyfarthfa Retail Park at around 10.30pm on Saturday when he claims the animal ran across the road in front of him in the direction of Gellideg, Cyfarthfa. He said: “I had just come off the roundabout, so I was only doing about 20mph when it just appeared in the middle of the road. “It was about 25 feet in front of me and ran straight into the light from my headlights. “I used to own an Irish setter and it was definitely much bigger than that, black, with a long tail and a head a bit like a boxer dog. It bounded across from the central reservation in about three leaps. “I had to do a double take, but there was no mistaking what it was.” Meanwhile staff at the nearby retail park reported arriving at work on Monday morning to find “unusual” damage to a bin on the site and rubbish strewn around the area. A worker at the site, who did not want to be named, said: “It looks like something has got into the bin from the back and pulled rubbish out. “It’s very unusual to see that and, to be honest, the cleaner was really quite surprised.” Big cat expert Danny Nineham, who works as a consultant for UK police forces, said it was typical of many sightings. “Until they see a big cat, most people don’t believe it,” he said. “But we’re not claiming it’s Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster or that aliens have invaded Wales – it is very real and very tangible.“We have got hundreds of these things, they are everywhere.” In 2006, Wales was placed fourth on a list of “big cat hotspots”, according to the British Big Cat Society, with hundreds of sightings reported across the country in the past decade. According to Mr Nineham, who keeps a log of thousands of sightings reported to him every year, increasing numbers of big cats are being spotted in urban areas as the animals apparently follow prey, like foxes, into towns and cities. He said while most big cats will instinctively hunt, many turn to scavenging, because it is easy pickings. “When you have got these retail parks, a cat doesn’t know what it is, it only sees it as a potential source of food,” he said. “This is absolutely typical of a big cat sighting, and I would advise people living locally to keep their pets indoors as much as possible, because pet attacks make up a lot of the incidents reported to us. “As far as people themselves are concerned, there is really no need to worry. “Big cats in the UK will very rarely, if ever, attack to kill because they have plenty of other food sources. “If you are walking in the area and you come across the animal, just stand tall, look big and try and back away without taking your eyes off it, so you know where it is.” A spokesman for South Wales Police was unable to confirm if the incident had been reported to the force. But Dyfed-Powys Police Wildlife Officer Matthew Howells said: “Don’t approach the animal and don’t leave any food out for it as this could encourage it to come closer to your home. “Report the sighting to the police and give them as much information as you can, such as a detailed description of the animal, where it was seen, how far away it was, and the direction it was travelling in,” he added.