It seems someone was rummaging around the bowels of the Bristol Museum (Bristol, UK) and found the remains of a “big cat” not native to the island. All that was left of the animal were its bones and skin – a taxidermist had done his work.
Nonetheless there was enough of the animal left for a team of scientists from Durham University and researchers from Bristol, Southhampton, and Aberystwyth Universities to examine it. They determined it was a Canadian lynx. These animals, endangered but still alive in Canada today, grow to be about twice as large as a domestic house cat.
The museum sample dates back to the Edwardian era, or turn of the 20th century. But back in 1903 the Edwardian researchers mislabeled the animal as a Eurasian lynx, which is part of the same family as the Canadian lynx.
How it Got There
Museum records reveal that this Canadian lynx had been shot by a landowner in Devon because it had killed two of his dogs. Prior to that its condition indicates it had been held captive. The scientists were able to determine that because it had already lost a lot of teeth and developed a bad case of plaque. They figure it must have escaped and then started prowling the countryside, eventually encountering the angry landowner.
Beasts of Britain
So what has this got to do with the Beasts of Britain phenomena? Well, quite a lot actually. It goes a long way to substantiating the claims of everyday people that they are seeing, to this day, large and/or unusual animals roaming wild in the wilderness areas of the country.
1976 Wild Animals Act Controversy
These scientists seem to take issue with the premise that by instituting the restrictive Wild Animals act of 1976, many exotic pet owners released their animals into the wild rather than pay the large taxes levied upon them for owning such animals. I can say for sure it happened in south Florida when the fad for owning chimpanzees got out of hand, the animals got too big for the homes, and people let them loose into the Everglades. So why couldn’t that have happened in Britain, tax or no tax?
I think more to the point, the scientists believe there has been a longer history of sightings of these out-of-place animals, and I think they’re right.
In a previous post about the Beasts of Dartmoor I shared a brief history of 16th century landowners who had menageries on their land as a sign of status and wealth. When times got tough, the animals were released into the wild.
Prior to that the Vikings brought over a huge species of dog that terrorized the poor residents for years and years. In my interview with University of Florida professor Charlie Baer, whose specialty is Evolutionary Genetics, we discussed if these animals could have mutated and changed over the years to form another species of animal, or perhaps a subspecies.
His opinion was that it was possible.
Even the animals released in the 16th century could have changed from their original state into something a bit different in the four hundred years since the initial release. This is even more possible for animals that were released into Britain a thousand years ago by the Vikings.
Dr Ross Barnett (Durham University) said, “This Edwardian feral lynx provides concrete evidence that although rare, exotic felids have occasionally been part of British fauna for more than a century. The animal remains are significant in representing the first historic big cat from Britain.”
Dr. Greger Larson, also of the research team, said, “Every few years there is another claim that big cats are living wild in Britain, but none of these claims have been substantiated. It seems that big cats are to England what the Loch Ness Monster is to Scotland.” Really???
OK, that made me mad.
Dr Larson needs to get out of the lab more often. There have been plenty of sightings of these big cats by regular, down to earth, respectable citizens. I’m going to include a link to my post about recent sightings of animals that look an awful lot like lions and you can see what you think for yourself.
We have the same problem with Bigfoot here in America. Most scientists will not get their arrogant selves out of their labs and go do the research that’s required to find a very skittish, very intelligent great ape that is most certainly roaming the hidden places of the US (and beyond) today.
To the first article:
To the follow-up article:
To the podcast with Professor Baer’s commentary:
Finding this animal helps to substantiate the claims of people nowadays still seeing strange and out of place animals roaming the countryside and parks of Great Britain. I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t more Canadian lynxes roaming Britain’s hidden areas.
But in order to convince the scientists these other animals are very much alive and well in the backwoods of Britain, I recommend you keep a good camera with you at all times, and be sure it’s charged. Then, if the moment strikes you can catch a good picture of whatever beast has crossed your path.
Til the next time!