Surrey Puma : BRITISH BIG CAT of southern England.
Etymology: A newspaper term coined in August 1964 when a large cat was reported in the Farnham and Odiham area on the Surrey- Hampshire border.
Physical description: Pumalike big cat. Length, 3–6 feet. Shoulder height, 2 feet 6 inches–3 feet.
Gold, beige, reddish, or black in color. Large paws. Tail, 2 feet 6 inches long.
Behavior: Usually nocturnal. Has a strong odor of ammonia. Makes screaming or hissing sounds. Dogs and foxes are terrified of it. Kills both livestock and wild animals. Drags smaller animals from field to field.
Tracks: Catlike but with claws. Length, 4–6 inches. Half an inch deep. Claw marks left on tree trunks.
Distribution: Southeast England, with focal points at Bushylease Farm, between Ewshot and Crondall, Hampshire; Hurtwood Common, near Guildford, Surrey.
During the winter of 1962–1963, a big cat made several nocturnal visits to Bushylease Farm, near Crondall, Hampshire.
On August 17, 1964, a milkman near Crondall drove his minivan over a large cat, which jumped over a hedge into a field.
Police took plaster casts of pawprints found near Munstead, Surrey, on September 7, 1964, left by an animal that ran across a long stretch of sandy soil and jumped over a 5.5-foot fence.
This and various livestock killings in the county led to a two-year Surrey puma hunt by police, who logged 362 official sightings from September 1964 to August 1966.
Former police photographer Ian Pert snapped a picture of a large cat by a house at Worplesdon, Surrey, in early August 1966, though it resembles a feral domestic cat, not a puma.
Three children saw a tawny-brown, catlike animal creeping through the grass on the edge of the woods near Woodlands, Hampshire, in September 1972.
Around July 1, 1976, Sally Rose was surprised by a large cat that walked out of the bushes onto a road south of Bracknell, Surrey, and vanished into the woods on the other side.
Construction workers near Reigate, Surrey, saw a large “lioness” several times in mid-October 1977, triggering a police search. One of the men, Keith Livingston, took a photo from a distance.
- C. Stephenson, “A Puma Hunt in Surrey,” Wide World Magazine 11 (1903): 511–515;
- Irene Roberts (letter), The Field 171 (March 19, 1938): 677;
- Charles Bowen, “Mystery Animals,” Flying Saucer Review 10, no. 6 (November-December 1964): 15–17;
- Maurice Burton, “Is This the Surrey Puma?” Animals 9 (December 1966): 458–461;
- Robert J. M. Rickard, “If You Go Down to the Woods Today,” INFO Journal, no. 13
(May 1974): 3–18;
- Robert J. M. Rickard, “The ‘Surrey Puma’ and Friends: More Mystery Animals,” Fortean Times, no. 14 (January 1976): 3–9;
- “‘Puma’: Surrey/Sussex etc.,” Fortean Times, no. 25 (Spring 1978): 33;
- Bob Rickard, “The ‘Surrey’ Puma,” Fortean Times, no. 26 (Summer 1978): 42–43;
- Janet and Colin Bord, Alien Animals (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 1981), pp. 48–61; Karl Shuker, Mystery Cats of the World (London: Robert Hale, 1989), pp. 36–40.
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