Big cat paw print
Tree surgeons John Vine and Nick Cole captured this image of a paw print which they say was left by a giant cat
Two tree surgeons have today spoken of their shock and amazement after claiming to have seen a cat 'the size of a labrador' emerge from under the willow they were felling.

John Vine and Nick Cole were trimming the tree near Gloucester, when they saw the creature come out of thicket.

They managed to photograph the big cat's paw print following the sighting earlier this week.

Mr Vine, 49, said: 'I was working 50ft up in tree when Nick shouted to me to look down to my left.

'I saw this black cat, that I first thought was just a domestic cat. I only got the scale when I saw it come half-way up a gate post.

'The cat was the size of a labrador with a shimmering coat, like gloss paint and a black tail as long as itself.

Mr Vine said the cat seemed more scared of the men than they were of him.

'I've been a sceptic about these kinds of things in the past and though it was just old wives' tales, but there's no doubt in my mind now,' he said.

Big black cat
© UnknownThis picture of the Beast of Bodmin, which is supposed to prowl Bodmin Moor, is one of several big cat sightings across the countryside according to experts
The pair made the sighting was on a dirt track near the Highgrove Estate in Tudor Mead, Churchdown, around 11.30am.

Big cat expert, Frank Tunbridge has been tracking cats for the past 25 years and believes the men's account is too similar to other recent sightings to ignore.

He said: 'I think they disturbed this animal, working with their equipment and it came out of the thicket. You'll never see them if you actively go looking.

'I went to the spot and found the hole it came out of - it was the size of a large steering wheel.'

Mr Tunbridge said the sightings were increasing and most correlated which could mean the area has a number of big cats.

People are describing creatures with shiny black coats almost like an 'oil slick', looking like a stretched labrador, with a very long tail and a small head for their size.

'They are non-aggressive and some have lost their fear of people,' Mr Tunbridge said.

'Every year, at this time of year when they are breeding, the sightings go up. I've had twelve this year that I am investigating in the Stroud Valley.

'As they are breeding they take more risks and go out looking for a mate.'

Mr Tunbridge has cameras set up to monitor big cat activity in Stroud and has appeared on several television programmes to talk about his work.

He believes most of the big cats seen now are descended from animals like leopards or pumas released by owners after Dangerous Animals Act of 1976 tightened up regulations.