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Expert warns hundreds of leopards and pumas are stalking the British countryside

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Animal experts have warned that hundreds of big cats could be stalking the British countryside and are responsible for the deaths of livestock.

Dr Andrew Hemmings, of the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, has suggested there could be as many as 500 wild big cats causing havoc in the countryside – and says bite marks on animal remains prove his theory.

The wildlife expert approximates there are 250 black leopards and 250 pumas at large in the UK and argues a lack of concrete evidence should not dismiss the possibility that big cats are hunting in the wilds.

While sightings of big cats in locations including the moors of Bodmin in Cornwall to the quiet residential streets of Hampstead, North London, have brought scepticism due to shaky photographs and video footage, Dr Hemmings says there are too many sightings to dismiss big cats in the UK as mere myths.

MailOnline reports Dr Hemmings claims: "Because of the consistency of sightings, lack of signs on inbreeding and skill at deer hunting, around 80 per cent of the reports he received were credible."

He went on: "Most of the witnesses and informants are reliable people, such as police officers and scientists."

The outlet goes on to claim that Dr Hemmings studied bite marks on the carcasses of five animals in the wild that he feels are consistent with the teeth marks of leopards and pumas studied in captivity.

He also claims the markings could only have been made by animals non-native to the UK.

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His evidence comes as he prepares to release a study with a wildlife journal in which he compared markings made by leopards and pumas from Exmoor Zoo on carcasses fed to the captive animals.

The markings are said to have been a "match" for samples of teeth marks found on carcasses found in the wild.

Earlier this month, a big cat was caught on camera roaming the countryside in Gloucestershire.

Joshua Odom, 26, slammed the brakes on his car when he spotted a large animal while driving in the village of Barnsley, near Cirencester at the beginning of August.

Whipping out his phone, the cricket fan filmed what appeared to be a large black cat casually strolling around the countryside.

"That is a f***ing big cat," someone behind the camera exclaims as the shape starts to move.

He went on to tell Gloucestershire Live: |We stopped the car and watched it for about three to four minutes.

"It was definitely a big cat. It was massive, with a long tail. It wasn’t a dog."

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