SINCE reporting the sighting of a ‘big cat’ in North Newton, the Mercury has been contacted by a reader who says he has experienced three sightings – including one in North Petherton.

As reported, the ‘Beast of North Newton’ was caught on camera on land at Maunsel House.

The story attracted national coverage and now Alex Bowler, who lives near Weston, has set up a website detailing his sightings.

He said: “The first time I saw one I was terrified, the second time I was surprised and the third time, when I saw a black panther and what looked like a puma, together - I was amazed.”

Alex’s first ‘big cat’ sighting was in 1985 when he was with a friend on Croydon Hill on the Brendon Hills.

“We were stalked by a black panther,” he said. “I thank God that we turned around when we did because it was about 12ft away from us. They are very quiet.”

The second sighting came in 2008 when Alex was driving along the A358 near Bishops Lydeard. He believes it was a juvenile black panther.

He said: “Later that same day a friend's son called at our home to tell us that a large black cat had jumped out of the undergrowth at him as he walked to the scout hall in the woods on the edge of Bishops Lydeard.

“He said he had lashed out at it and actually struck it with a stick he was carrying before it disappeared once more into the undergrowth. It had to have been the same one.”

The third sighting happened last winter, in a field below North Petherton, when Alex was walking his dog.

“About forty feet in front of us, two big cats ambled along the raised soil hedgerow bank.

“The first big cat was undoubtedly a black panther and closely following it was what looked like a brown puma.

“Neither animal looked at us, but both just walked straight ahead before disappearing into a hollow in a copse.”

Alex, who used to live in North Petherton, said a resident had also told him others had seen a big cat in the area.

He has reported the sightings and is urging people to take care when out in the countryside.

“Having been stalked by one, I realise how dangerous they are,” he said. “But I like animals and, if possible, I would prefer they were captured rather than killed.”

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