NEW footage of what could be a jet-black big cat skulking through woodland in Nailsworth has fuelled fresh fears a predatory feline remains at large in the Five Valleys.
The image was taken using a trip camera and big cat expert Frank Tunbridge believes it shows a creature on a scale with a small leopard, about 42 inches in length.
His estimate was made in comparison with a photograph of a sizeable roe deer captured in the same spot a few nights later - clearly showing the animal to be larger than a domestic moggy. "Adult roe deer are on average 70cm at the shoulder in height and the wooden steps down to the bench are 42 inches wide, which makes the cat pretty big," said Frank, who this week offered his expertise to several national newspapers after reports that a 'lion' was spotted in an Essex field.
"It is on a scale with a small leopard. They are one of the cat species with the largest range of sizes, from about 60lbs, or about as big as a Labrador, to ones in Africa hunting big game prey that can weigh up to 180lbs.
"I think this is a really good photo. Unfortunately it was moving so fast it is slightly blurred."
The image was taken near to where the mutilated remains of a half-eaten deer was discovered just outside Woodchester Park at the start of the year - fuelling suggestions a big cat was on the prowl.
DNA tests on the carcass found only fox saliva but dozens of sightings continued to roll in from across Nailsworth and Woodchester, including a bizarre report of a 'pure white' big cat in Chestnut Close in Nailsworth.
"Why people just cannot get there their head around it I do not know," added Frank, who said he still receives two to three reports of sightings in Gloucestershire each week. "These animals are wild and they are elusive Ð they stay out of sight.
"I had a report only a couple of weeks ago from a guy in Aston Down who said he saw a puma-type animal casually walking across a field Ð he could not believe it. "I believe there are a pair of big cats resident in Woodchester Park. It is a massive area and there are woodlands and food and water in there."