Nov 27 2006 Sally Williams, Western Mail
POLICE have warned walkers to be on their guard in hills above a Welsh village after several sightings of a "big cat".
Dyfed-Powys Police said seven people had reported seeing a large cat-like animal in the Talybont area, near Aberystwyth. They confirmed they had received photographs of the animal.
Wales is fourth on the list of big cat "hotspots" in the society's UK survey, according to recent figures by the British Big Cat Society (BBCS).
Danny Bamping, of the BBCS, said, "Big cats have been reported around that area before. There have been quite a few sightings across Wales and big cats are in the country without a doubt. I have not been chasing ghosts."
BBC programme-maker Aled Jones collated more than 100 sightings in North and Mid Wales over an 18-month period.
While the South West proved a hot-spot for sightings, with Devon, Cornwall and Somerset all featuring in the top 10 big cat locations. Scotland came in third, seeing almost a 50% drop in sightings reported, and was replaced at the top by Devon. Wales was fourth on the list with 123 reported sightings and incidents.
Almost 60% of all the sightings reported were of black cats and 32% were of brown or sandy-coloured ones, which the BBCS believes to be pumas. Another 6% were lynx-type cats.
There were 17 reports of a big cat with cubs - an increasing trend which suggests the animals may be breeding, according to the society.
In Wales, big cat sightings are investigated by the Welsh Assembly Government, in the form of the wildlife management unit based at Aberystwyth.