Have you seen Oban’s big cat?

Alan Turner has spotted the puma-like creature twice and is glad other people have spotted it too.

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A prowling puma-like animal has been spotted on a hill near houses in Oban.

There have been several claimed sightings of the cat-type creature said to be about six- foot long from nose to tail and ‘easily the height of an Alsation.’

Alan Turner contacted The Oban Times to say he has now seen it twice while waiting for a bus round the corner from McKelvie Road.

His first sighting was at 2.30pm on Saturday when he was with a neighbour who lives nearby.

The second time was Monday at about 11.30am while with the same neighbour and his partner Linda Price.

‘We all saw it. It was up on the hill below and above the houses, moving in and out of bushes. It was about 150 yards away from us. It’s where there’s usually sheep but I haven’t seen any up there for a while – no wonder!’ said Mr Turner who is a carer.

He said another woman in the area had been taking rubbish out to the bins one night recently when she heard a growling noise.

‘She dropped the bags and ran back to the house. She said she’d never run so fast in her life. Someone else spotted it on July 15.

‘It’s really baffling me as to what it could be. There’s been stories for a longtime about big cats in the hills round here. It’s no pet cat and definitely not a dog. I’ve tried to take pictures of it. I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. It had a long tail and it’s back had a wee slope. It must’ve been at least six foot long and easily the height of an Alsation. It looked like a panther or a puma. There might be two, the second one I saw had white on its feet – I’m sure the first one didn’t. They might be breeding,’ added Mr Turner, who tried to take photographs on his phone camera.

When The Oban Times contacted big cat expert and retired police wildlife liaison officer George Redpath, who lives in St Andrews, he said he believed the sightings, although some people would argue that black pumas do not exist.

He said it could be a leopard or a hybrid but we would not know for sure until someone gets close enough to it.

‘I’ve come across this description of a big cat being the height of an Alsation before,’ he said, and advised any sightings should be reported to the police.

‘It’s a Catch 22 situation.  They say don’t look a leopard in the eye but if it’s a puma you are supposed to watch it and make yourself big, spreading your arms out, while steadily backing away. Don’t bend down or pick anything up because it might be seen as a threat.

‘Personally, I’d watch it and back off if I felt threatened and get the heck out of there,’ he said.

Dr Roo Campbell from Scottish Natural Heritage has suggested residents put up a camera trap to get a close-up photograph of it.

‘I’m afraid we can’t cast much light on this without some form of photographic evidence. Judging the size of an animal is very difficult and I know from personal experience that black cats especially can look bigger than they actually are when seen at a distance and without anything nearby to judge scale reliably.

‘Also some domestic cat breeds such as Main Coon cats can be unusually large. So it is conceivable it is a large male domestic cat or wildcat-domestic cat hybrid but impossible to be sure. A leopard or puma would usually be larger than an Alsatian. The best we can suggest would be for the residents to put up a camera trap to catch a photo of it.’

In 1980 a puma was captured in the Inverness area after several years of sightings of a big cat. The puma, caught by a local farmer, went to live at a wildlife park and was given the name Felicity. When she died she was stuffed and rehomed in Inverness Museum.

Nearer to home in Argyll, photographs and video footage of a large black cat were taken by an off-duty Ministry of Defence police officer. The animal was walking along a railway line in Helensburgh at the time. Large cats, either black or tan, have been reported in the area before.

Mr Turner has reported his sightings to police.