Derbyshire big cat: Man who feared for his life after seeing big cat in the Peak District was ‘possibly warned by black leopard’ - says expert

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We spoke to a big cat expert after a man claimed that he ‘feared for his life’ after a close encounter with a big cat in the Peak District.

Earlier this week media across the country have reported a story of John Broomhead, 68, who spoke about a scary incident that happened to him when he was camping near Tansley in July 2022.

It has been reported that after a barbecue with friends, John went to put out the fire when he heard what he described as a ‘rustling noise’. He said that soon after he saw a ‘huge black shadow ’ which was three or four times bigger than a regular cat.

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John said that he could see the 'bright yellow eyes’ of the creature coming towards him. It has been reported that John ‘threw himself into the caravan’ after the animal moved from 40 yards away to 20 yards from the man in ‘an instant’. John said that he ‘feared he could get killed’ and that the incident left him traumatised.

John Broomhead said that he had a close encounter with a big black cat in the Peak District.John Broomhead said that he had a close encounter with a big black cat in the Peak District.
John Broomhead said that he had a close encounter with a big black cat in the Peak District.

Rick Minter, the host of the Big Cat Conversations podcast and author of Big Cats Facing Britain’s Wild Predators spoke to the Derbyshire Times to discuss the incident.

Rick said: “I hope to be able to speak to John in person about this case, but from his reported comments it would seem he witnessed a black leopard, also called a black panther.

“In their native lands, leopards can do a warning charge when provoked or threatened. This is possibly what John experienced. Leopards attack by surging low to the ground at blistering speed, so from what he described it is much more likely to have been a charge to warn-off John.

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“Black leopards are the main big cats described by people across Britain. When mated together two black adult leopards breed 100% black offspring. There are now a few DNA results to back up the UK witness reports.

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Rick Minter, the host of the Big Cat Conversations podcast said he belives John possibly saw a black leopard, giving him a warning. Rick added that only a few cases of close confrontations with big cats have been reported. He said most of those don’t result in the cat showing threatening behaviour. Almost invariably the cat flees or lets the person retreat.Rick Minter, the host of the Big Cat Conversations podcast said he belives John possibly saw a black leopard, giving him a warning. Rick added that only a few cases of close confrontations with big cats have been reported. He said most of those don’t result in the cat showing threatening behaviour. Almost invariably the cat flees or lets the person retreat.
Rick Minter, the host of the Big Cat Conversations podcast said he belives John possibly saw a black leopard, giving him a warning. Rick added that only a few cases of close confrontations with big cats have been reported. He said most of those don’t result in the cat showing threatening behaviour. Almost invariably the cat flees or lets the person retreat.

“Leopards are incredibly stealthy and furtive. Close situations with humans are rare. They don’t usually regard us as prey but rather as a hassle factor or potential threat to be avoided.

"With natural game like deer and rabbits so abundant here, they have a stress-free life and don’t need to take risks. Even predating on sheep seems to be becoming less frequent from feedback from my farmer networks.

“On the Big Cat Conversations podcast, we hear many witness reports of people’s encounters. Mostly people watch in amazement, after realising the animal isn’t a dog. People are not quick on the draw with phone cameras, partly because most are assuming a dog at first.

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"A few cases have been close confrontations, but most of those don’t result in the cat showing threatening behaviour. Almost invariably the cat flees or lets the person retreat.

“John’s case was two years ago, yet I’m not aware of any other reports of threatening behaviour from big cats in the area since. Maybe the barbecue smell interested the cat, or the sound of water dousing barbecue embers might have appeared like another predator hissing.

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“I am sorry to hear the trauma lives on for John. I’ve met a few other witnesses where their concern still nags away. Hopefully talking it through helps the person have an outlet for their valid concerns. It can also help us all learn more about the behaviour of these cats when they do occasionally come into close contact with us.”

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