The hunt for the Preston puma

9 08 2013

David talks about his hunt for the Preston puma.

Check out some of his photos!

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6 responses

10 08 2013
Andy

This is fascinating. We have had attacks by the Beast of Bodmin Moor near here but nobody has actually seen anything recently.

There were some ripped up sheep back in January when the weather was cold and frosty. Perhaps it could not find any rabbits or deer and turned to sheep. At any rate the farmer who found the bodies felt that the damage was far more than could be done by a dog. Nobody thought to check for footprints.
I think you are right in supposing it is a puma. The environment sounds right for a puma, which is usually found in the Rockies. Their natural habitat is upland forest. I am sure we have a family of them living way out on the moor in a very extensive plantation, several square miles in a remote part of the moor. Problem is, you need a horse just to get there so my investigations have been limited.
Tracking : Bear in mind that ALL the cat family are big time on scent. People remember that they can see in the dark but forget that they use their ears like radar and they can smell things hundreds of feet away. They don’t actually need to see all that well to know what is going on. So I think we can probably assume that it knows the moment David enters its territory.

The ones we have round here are rarely seen on open ground, they have always been seen going along a hedgerow or emerging from high grass. I think we can assume that its an animal that slinks around in the undergrowth rather than jogging across fields like foxes.

Not sure about the way the camera is set up. If David has been using glue and other things of that nature the cat will smell it. It obviously won’t know it is a camera but it will certainly fire up warnings in the animal’s brain Most wildlife photographers mount the camera up a tree on a clamp so the smell is out of the way.
Just one thing… why do you want to catch it? It is doing what Nature built it for so why not let it get on with it? The alternative of a zoo cage doesn’t really sound like an improvement.
Round here nobody seriously wants to hunt them down, they accept the loss of sheep now and then even though sheep are about £120 each.
This has been an interesting read. From one woodsman to another … best of luck!

10 08 2013
David

I agree totally with your saying here.
It’s just that I didn’t really have a choice in the matter over camouflaging the cam, as it was on a public footpath through a fence, that the cat is venturing through to it’s hunting ground and was probably the best possible location for getting the pic of the cat. I had to do what was needed at the time to stick the cam in full public view where it wouldn’t get noticed and go walkies. High up in the trees was not an option in this area as there are no tree’s suitable for mounting the cam in and certainly don’t fancy trying to mount it in a hawthorn bush.
It’s been a steep learning curve over the past 4-5 weeks,
The cat is like a slug,…. It leaves a trail behind it.
It’s the shear size of the cat that takes some getting your head around, regarding it’s gait, Be it,…Walking, trotting, running, leaping, etc. I’ve now got my eye and mind well in, regarding this cats movements through it’s environment, over walls, through foliage, across branches, up trees…. it took a while, admittedly,… to get my focus in.
Now I see the signs of it’s presence and movements pretty much everywhere in the locality and am still finding new areas it has ventured to, further a field…
The sole reason, I mentioned catching it, was for evidence of the cat. I agree a zoo is not the best location for it,… I now consider it my elusive pet. ;)
Trapping it is probably going to be an easier option, than getting the picture of it! Lol
The logistics of finding good camera locations in clearings, that are few and far between to get the pic in a very public area and overgrown foliage are damn nearly impossible.
Scared of losing over £600 worth of cams!
Already, one cam has been spotted! Video evidence from the cam confirmed that,… so that camera siting area is a big no no!, Unfortunately for me,its a prime spot that the cat is using regularly. :(
Living and learning as I go along,… It’s eating mice, rats, birds and rabbits… of which it’s prey is bounty full in the area. No sheep around for miles.
I’ve scores of photographic and video evidence of its presence, ….like I said, I just need that pic/vid for the cherry on the cake.
Will keep you updated in due course. ;)

10 08 2013
Andy

Yeah I appreciate that you’re limited by the fact that cameras tend to evaporate very easily. We have a massive badger sett a few hundred yards away and I would like to set some cameras up there with sensors. But it is near a road and people will see the flash.
By the way, when a flash gun recycles it makes a noise and animals can hear that.
I think you are doing pretty well for only a few weeks research. Old Attenborough spends months trying to get just one shot in the middle of nowhere. At least nobody is going to half inch the equipment.
What I suggest is to map out its activities. If it is cat like then it will have favourite places to eat, sleep, ablutions etc. Perhaps talk to a large animal vet? Or a zoo keeper.

As far as I know there have been >no pictures of a British dangerous cat<. There have been lots of blurry images that might or might not be next door's moggy but no crisp clear definitive shots of a pukka big cat.

That being the case, if you are successful ( and it sounds as if you are close) then the results will be worth quite a lot of moolah. You could more or less name your price.

10 08 2013
David

No worries about flash on these proper trail cams or noise from shutters,.., they work on infra red and have black flash for photo’s at night. Got loads of vids of foxes, mice, rabbits in absolute pitch blackness. :
Just be prepared to fork out a pretty penny..
http://www.minox.com/index.php?id=5511&L=1 These are what I am using,that have been kindly supplied to me by the manufacturers to help me in my quest for the pics….
http://www.scottcountry.co.uk/products-Spypoint-BF-10HD-Motion-Detection-Wildlife-Camera-with-Covert-Infrared-and-HD-Video-Recording-5241.htm These cams have been recommended as being very good too. Close to £300 but worth it for the excellent pics and vids they are capable of.producing.

11 08 2013
cem4881

Been a very interesting read. Actually leaving the comment so I am able to follow you in your hunt. Good luck!

11 08 2013
Andy

That’s a really neat bit of kit. Good old Minox, half the world’s spies would be out of business without them. For what you get it is well worth the money.

As a photographer I am accustomed to paying a lot of loot for precision gear and by comparison the Minox is pretty cheap. For example I bought a 100-500 telephoto zoom, intended for wildlife. I had to go to Bristol and pay £800. Then it rained for the rest of the year….

The problem with setting up conventional equipment is the amount of stuff you need. Not just the camera but triggers and battery boxes and a fair amount of fiddling about. During which time the area becomes impregnated with human scent. The nice thing about this Minox is that it’s all one package.

One thing about the flash, normal flashguns are calibrated on the assumption that they are going to be used indoors in normal sized rooms. If you take them outside it immediately halves the lighting power.
I used to do badgers with a very powerful flashgun and it was only just adequate. So what you are doing here is photographing a black cat on a dark night. There’s a photographic joke about black cats in coal cellars. It is the ultimate in difficult lighting conditions.
I don’t know if you can set this Minox to allow for all that, the power should be to max. You will have an effective range of only a few feet. Even my Metz 402 only goes about 20 feet, I tried it on the dog. So power will be important.

It’s very interesting that someone has actually come to grips with a big cat. I have been trying to track ours for years but the territory is just too big to handle.
Reports I have read describe a black/dark brown beast about three feet high and with a very long tail. Also the ears are low set on the skull, which is very sloping. That’s how you can tell it’s not a cat. The total length with tail seems to be between five and eight feet and the tail is about half that. There have only been a handful of sightings scattered over a large area so it’s all very uncertain. That’s really why I haven’t pursued it. Not enough evidence, as the police say. But certainly torn up sheep over a wide area indicates there is something out there. Meanwhile we make up wild stories to scare the tourists in the pub.

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