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Numbers of big cats in Sussex

Posted on June 14, 2013 at 7:45 PM

Clearly only an estimate but the numbers of big cats in Sussex does seem to of fallen drastically in the last year or so or rather more accurately the areas where they are being seen has fallen.In 2010/2011 I surveyed Sussex by sightings and other evidence gathering to come up with a figure of around a dozen big cats that were being seen or leaving evidence behind in the form of kills and/or paw prints and could possibly group that data to specific areas where I believed certain cats were.Of course some of it was guesswork and would have had  to of been confirmed by other data but although most are of a uniform black they exhibit visual differences like size, body conformation etc. and also exhibit different behaviour when being seen like running straight away,creeping,looking etc.At the time I admitted that one or two cats might of been the same but didn`t realise how this could be interpreted in the results.3 years down the line and some areas are not producing any evidence of big cat activity at all.This can be due to change of land use like encroachment of development on hunting and laying up areas or reductions in prey numbers especially rabbits however where none of the above are accountable then it must be reasonable to assume that previously the cat that was responsible for the sightings or whatever has either moved on or died.

What is clear from the last year of data collection that fewer areas are producing signs of cat activity but this is accounted for by the widely reported crash in rabbit numbers in the past year countywide probably accelerated by the remarkably wet weather bring on more fatal diseases but rabbits were heading for a crash anyway.Just about all herbivorous small mammal populations show a helter skelter trough, peak, trough in numbers roughly every 7 years like voles ,mice, lemmings famously and rabbits are no exception with their numbers climbing up to critical mass over a number of years for them to plummet , the last time was in the mid `90.s if I remember .Seeing as rabbits make up for a large proportion of a big cats  diet then this failure of a food source could point to a drop in overall cat numbers or at least a lower cub birth or survival rate.

Another interesting point uncovered  is that some big cats are moving from one area to another on a much wider scale than previously thought, the same cat might not be seen in an area for quite some time where it had previously been seen regularly only for it to reappear back on the radar back in it`s old haunts and so nowadays the previous estimate of numbers of big cats in Sussex should be reduced a little..

Categories: Sightings

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