Mystery of the Beast of Bowness

The clearest photographs of a mysterious 'muscular big cat' thought to be a puma lurking in the British countryside were taken this weekend.

An unnamed big cat spotter in Cumbria got out of her van and took the pictures when she spotted the feline eating a pigeon.

The woman, whose work regularly takes her out to the countryside, took three pictures of the predator after taking a brave step closer before it ran off.

Her pictures match regular sightings of large big cats spotted in Bowness-on-Windermere in the south of the Lake District.

The photos were added to the Big Cats in Cumbria Facebook group last Sunday and shared by Sharon Larkin-Snowden, who runs the page.

Members of the page are divided on whether the pictures show an African golden cat, a young puma or a caracal.

Sharon posted: 'The witness said it was muscular and the size of a collie. Either a caracal or young puma.

'This has to be some of the best photographic evidence up-to-date. To get a decent photo is difficult. 

'The size of the cat caught her attention and she was lucky enough to get these photos before it slinked off.

'To get three shots takes some doing. Brave lady!'

There have been more than 40 reports of a black panther in the south of the Lake District since 2003 according to Cumbria Police.

Two walkers spoke of their fear when they spotted a large black 'panther' in January 2017 and photographed the animal, in a spate of sightings that year.

Husband and wife Liz and Stuart Wild were heading towards Little Langdale when they saw the 'jet black' panther stalking a herd of sheep.

Mrs Wild, 54, explained: 'There were some sheep in the field and one of my friends said: "Look at that dog".

'But it was very feline and very, very big. You know how a cat stalks? It was like that. It was jet black and walking slowly.'

Her husband, from Worcester, added: 'It had a big, black long tail.'

'It looked exactly like the pictures of black panthers I found when I searched online.'

The couple did not have time to get their binoculars or camera out to get a better look at the creature, which Mrs Wild said was around 75 yards away from them.

Mrs Wild said: 'It's the first time anything like that has happened.

'We were all quite surprised to see it.

'We had a big, dry stone wall in front of us, but I would have tried to get a closer look given the chance.'