Those who suggest there is nothing more to the phenomenon of panthers in strange places should attempt explaining to 15 year old Kim Howells what exactly happened to her earlier this week. The girl is still recovering after a close encounter with a creature many say could not possibly be living in the forest she was hiking in, or anywhere else in the UK save the occasional zoo or animal sanctuary.
It was a birthday like no other Kim Howells has had, being chased by a “black panther” in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. As she and her cousin, eight year old Sophie Gwynne were walking through the forest, they came across a strange creature slumbering beneath a tree. Immediately they stopped and stood back, looking at the creature that was clearly a long way from home. It was described as approximately the size of a Great Dane with massive eyes, a long tail, and large paws. It was 8:30 and getting dark, but in the moonlight they could clearly see the creature as it raised its head to look at them. After a few seconds passed, they whispered to each other and started backing away. Hoping they had lost it as they went on their way home, they soon became aware that they were being followed.
Kim says she has seen wild boar before, and knew exactly what it was they were looking at. As they continued walking they couldn’t be sure why a panther would be out in the wild, and yet there it was. Later when questioned if it could have possibly been something else, Kim emphatically stated that it had not been a wild boar or deer. Travelling through the woods frequently, she says she has seen both of these types of creatures and knew what a big cat looked like. As the creature started following them, they sprinted off away from where they had last seen it. Eventually they arrived home in Ruspridge nearby Cinderford. As they recovered, they recounted their strange encounter to family.
Her mother, immediately gathering that her child’s sense of distress was genuine, attempted to confirm that the pair had seen a black panther in the wild and not some other type of cat. Insisting, the girls then pointed to a picture on the internet of a black panther. Between the girls’ obviously troubled state and the positive identification of the creature using a picture, she wondered if they could have really seen such a creature. Black Panther sightings in Gloucester have been prolific in recent months. And they come just after an investigation into the claims of big black cats that have been rumored for years in the area declared officially that it could not be true. Though there has not been an officially documented case, there have been dozens, sometimes hundreds of sightings in a given area within a year. And one of the most frequented by these strange creatures is, according to most recent reports, Gloucester. Among the accounts in the UK of big cats was a teacher, who spotted a panther while hiking earlier this year.