Dozens of big cats have been spotted prowling around Denbighshire and the surrounding counties.

In the last seven years, people have reported panther and lynx like creatures across the region.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 45 big cat sightings have been recorded by North Wales Police.

Seven separate incidents were logged from people claiming to have seen a panther.

The last reported sighting was last year in the hills around Wrexham, but other sightings have been reported from the Clwydian hills near Ruthin and the open mountains between Dolgellau and Bala.

Founding member of the British Big Cats Society, Danny Bamping said he is convinced there is plenty of evidence of big cats roaming the Welsh countryside.
Mr Bamping said: "North Wales is a hotspot for sightings of big cats so these relatively high figures do not surprise me. It is interesting the number that are black cats as well.

"Rural North Wales is an area a big cat can live, can survive and can thrive.
"Our theory on older cases dates back to the 1976 Dangerous Animals Act, which placed strict restrictions on the ownership of non-indigenous species. It is believed that these laws saw owners release their pets into the wild.

"The sightings we get now are probably second and third generation big cats."
Wales is fourth on the list of big-cat hot-spots in the British Big Cat Society's own UK survey. Most Welsh sightings are in Denbighshire, Gwynedd and Powys. Across the whole of the UK, almost 60 per cent of sightings were of black cats, and 32 per cent sandy-coloured or brown, which the BBCS believes are pumas.

Marcus Matthews, who has researched big cat sightings since 1986 has more than 1,000 letters confirming sightings. "We are talking of maybe 50 big cats out there, ranging from black leopards to lynxes and smaller jungle and leopard cats."

Pumas and panthers have been reported on the hills near Ruthin and Bala. A wolverine was also shot by a farmer near Llangollen, in November 1997.
Last year there were reports and prints of a puma near Treuddyn and Leeswood near Mold.