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  Reprinted from Newsletter 137, dated 2012 July

Was a panther also beating the bounds of Glastonbury? Jim Nagel

What was the big black cat-like animal that Paul Branson saw on a drove just outside the Glastonbury boundary?

   Paul, an artist, was on his way to paint a scene on the Levels on June 18, a Monday morning about 10 o’clock, driving slowly along Rock’s Drove. This is a bumpy track near Coldharbour Bridge (see map below), leading past flooded former peat works.

Paul’s drawing of the black creature he saw, superimposed on a photo of the actual location, a rough drove nearly parallel to the Meare road. Grass on verges was mown in the few days between the sighting and the photo. Sheep are in the field left of the road.

   About 100 feet ahead of him he saw on the road “an enormous black panther thing, 5 to 6 feet long, with a curl at the end of a long tail. It stopped for ten seconds or so, looked at me, then whisked into the bushes.”

   He was able to measure the animal according to the width of the road.

   A local sheep farmer came by while Paul was painting and said he had had a lamb taken and its part-consumed carcass left behind. A fox would have started eating near the rump, but this predator had started near the throat.

   A few hours later Paul returned to the scene with his neighbour Allan Keevil, a retired University of the West of England manager. They saw flattened long grass on the verge of the road where something big had been lying, possibly with its eye on sheep grazing in the adjoining field.

   Nearby they also found droppings — if it was a cat, the correct term is “scat”. A sample is in Allan’s freezer in hope of having it analysed at a veterinary lab.

   “I have seen the beast,” Paul said.

   For at least 20 years similar sightings of panther-like animals have been reported — at Bruton, Mells, Coleford, Priddy, Wookey, Shipham quarry and Axbridge and Yeovil in Somerset, as well as at many places in Dorset and Devizes in Wiltshire — and the “beast of Exmoor” A website exists to log sightings: iolfree.ie/~dorsetbigcats


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