Are they just urban myths or could there really be creatures as exotic as black panthers and pumas roaming our countryside?
Some say it’s nonsense but reported sightings of big cats have been high for many years.
Hundreds of reports vary from a black panther-like creatures to a mutant beast that looked like a snow leopard.
Here are a few from the archives – could they still be out there?
Plumstead Common panther
A wild big cat was spotted roaming near Plumstead Common.
The large black feline, thought to be a panther, was seen on September 18, 2002 near Upton Road between Plumstead Common and Shrewsbury Park.
It had been spotted before in neighbouring Bexley, skulking round Hillview Cemetery, Welling.
Father-of-three Dave Loson, 33, saw the cat walking along a track from a window in flats on Upton Road.
The mini-cab controller from John Wilson Street, Woolwich, said: “It was standing 75-100 yards away on a dirt track for about five minutes so I got a really good look at it.
“Then it turned and just skulked away towards the bushes. From the way it moved its shoulders so gracefully, I could tell it wasn’t a normal cat.”
Mr Loson says the cat he saw was about 4ft long, which Brad Clough, the local representative of the British Big Cat Society, said matches the normal size of a panther.
Mr Clough, 22, of Granville Road, Sidcup, said: “There have been lots of reports of big cats in the area. There is a puma in Bean, near Bluewater, and lots of lynxes all over Kent.”
He added: “These panthers are nocturnal travellers and can cover 25 miles in one night within a 65 mile territory.”
It is thought these elusive animals first entered the wild from private collections in the 1970s but now there are so many, the British Big Cat Society wants official recognition of the issue from the government to give both animals and humans protection.
A puma or panther was said to be on the prowl in Crystal Palace according to a journalist who spotted a big cat there in 2009.
The beast – dubbed the Palace Puma – was sighted in some woodland by journalist Helen Barrett, 41, who was out for a walk with her family.
They were so terrified that they fled from the “wild animal” – described as black and 5ft in length – after it approached them on a pathway between Church Road and Auckland Hill at 3.45pm.
Mrs Barrett said: “It was quite alarming.
“At first we couldn’t believe what we were seeing.
“It was black, the size of a labrador, but walking like a cat.
“It had to be feline.”
She thought it must be a puma or panther.
She described how it came out of foliage 50ft from her family, including her children aged two and 10, and disappeared before reappearing out of the woodland and began to approach them.
Beast of Sydenham
A jogger was forced to run for his life after encountering the infamous Beast of Sydenham.
Father-of-four Roger Fleming, 40, was on a late night run with his puppy King on December 9 near Sydenham Hill station when a giant cat chased them through Dulwich Wood.
Mr Fleming believes the creature, which he says looked like a brown cheetah, was the Beast of Sydenham, seen several times in the area over the years.
The building services manager first saw the beast at the bottom of a path in the wood.
Speaking in December 2009, he said: “It was at least five or six feet long.
“I thought to myself ‘what the hell is this?’ That’s when the panic set in.
“It sat there, locked its eyes on to me, sat up and – boom – it started running towards us.”
Mr Fleming grabbed hold of his Staffordshire bull terrier and ran through the wood.
A terryfying attack on a Gravesend man was used as evidence that predatory big cats roam free in Britain, by the British Big Cat Society.
It launched a nation-wide campaign to persuade the Government to recognise Britain’s wild big cats and legislate for their protection.
For many years, sightings of panthers, pumas and lynxes have been reported across the country most recently in Bexley but the authorities refuse to accept the reports.
Society secretary Danny Bamping said: “We think there are between 50 and 100 big cats roaming around Britain. They need to be catalogued and protected for their safety and ours.”
The society is hoping Mick Cole’s story will put pressure on the Government to recognise the existence of these cats.
Father-of-two Mr Cole, 43, had his hand slashed by a lynx on January 9, 2002 in Barr Road, Gravesend, as he parked his car outside his house.
At first, the married optician thought the animal was a fox when he saw it prowling along the side of a garage, with a pet rabbit in its mouth.
He moved towards it waving his hands trying recover the pet.
Thinking it was being attacked, the animal slashed at his outstretched hand leaving him with three long, deep gashes.
However, Mr Cole is convinced the animal only attacked because it felt threatened. He said: “I truly believe it was only defending itself.”
It is thought the first wild cats were released from private collections in the 1970s and the cats we see today are their offspring.
Beast of Bexley
A mysterious big cat “like a mutant” has been spotted roaming the streets of Northumberland Heath by tens of News Shopper readers.
The creature, which has become known as the Beast of Bexley, is said to be a black leopard.
Dozens of readers have contacted us to talk about their own encounters with the mysterious beast of Bexley.
All of them claim to have seen a black cat-like creature, bigger than any other cat they had ever seen.
Descriptions of the cat, spotted in Erith Road, Avenue Road and Bexley Road, include “like a mutant”.
Mine was “The Beast of Bexley” was supposed to be a big black cat type animal. Everyone swear they saw it once
— Zia Moon (@ZiaMoonWrites) October 19, 2020
Bernice Fogarty, who spotted the creature outside her Avenue Road home 10 months ago, said: “I thought at first it must be a dog but it jumped over the fence in much the same way my cat would.
“It is definitely not a dog, and is far too big to be a normal cat.”
The Beast has also been seen at Welling, Erith, Bexleyheath, Belvedere, Bromley, Abbey Wood and towards Dartford.
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