big cat research in Sussex


All quiet on the sightings front

Posted on February 10, 2014 at 2:30 PM

It has been very quiet on the sightings front since at least the mid of last December which was when these rains of biblically epic proportions started after a very dry autumn. This is usual for when there is no let up in rainy weather and boggy ground fewer people are around to see these big cats and the cats themselves appear to stick to the better drained and more wooded areas of the county where they are that much harder to be seen. This has been echoed in previous very wet winters most notably in "97-98 when virtually all of the whole winters sightings in West Sussex were along the downland escarpement between Greatham and Cocking most probably of the same big cat. What was different then to now was that clusters of sightings were showing up fairly well spread out across the county throughout the year whereas in the past couple of years the sightings seem to of been concentrated in the warmer months. The past couple of very wet years has coincided with a deep trough in rabbit numbers since the population crash in autumn 2012. Like voles rabbits rise and fall in their fortunes which creates a knock on effect for their predators or at least those who rely heavily on them. Foxes do not, they have a wide selection of food sources unlike stoats who concentrate their efforts on rabbits and face high litter mortality when rabbits are hard to get. Big cats are thought to prey heavily on rabbits and the lack of yearly total sightings is thought by many to reflect their reliance. Cub mortality would appear to of been high judging by the lack of sightings of larger cats accompanied by much smaller ones and whilst most years there is only only the odd report of this type of thing I am the first to admit that the case for wild big cats to be breeding in Sussex is sketchy at best if only the reports of mothers with cubs are to be relied upon....

Categories: Sightings

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