COULD a big cat be roaming the countryside around Petersfield?
That’s the question being asked after a rambler said he saw a large cat disappear through a hedge across a meadow near Sussex Road.
John Bailey, who lives in Portsmouth, paused to snap a pugmark left by the grey and black feline before hurrying out of the fields.
The pensioner said: ‘I was a short way along a footpath from Sussex Road to Buriton when it came out of grass about two feet high, and went through a hedge near a stream, where it left a paw print in mud.
‘I first thought “did I really see that?” then I got bit worried because it looked to be about knee high, so I came back.’
Although his picture does not offer irrefutable proof, experts do not doubt he saw a wild cat much bigger than a household tabby.
Jonathan McGowan, a big cat expert, said: ‘Cats put their claws out in mud to steady themselves, and these are cat-like. There have been sightings across the south recently and this is country one could live in with cover, water and food.’
He added only breeds that ‘roar’ such as leopards and panthers should be called big cats, but due to cross breeding there are now wild cats far bigger than pet cats. Between 1999 and 2008, there were 80 sightings in Hampshire.