Mark of the Calderdale catbeast?

The 'panther' tracks found in a garden at Chevinedge Crescent, Exley
The 'panther' tracks found in a garden at Chevinedge Crescent, Exley
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Is this the paw print of the Calderdale catbeast?

That was the question today after another terrified witness told of coming face to face with a black, puma-like creature in her back garden.

Susan Rooke, 58, said she watched, shaking with fear, as the animal “scrabbled” in her garden at Chevinedge Crescent, Exley, Halifax, before leaping over her four-foot fence and fleeing into nearby woods.

But for the first time, the beast left behind a paw print and scratch marks – proof she wasn’t dreaming.

A still visibly shaken Mrs Rooke, 58, told the Courier she believes the animal was after her two cockerels kept at the egde of the garden.

“I heard this commotion from them outside as I was getting out of the shower but I couldn’t see anything from the bathroom window.

“So I ran down stairs out of the back door. One of my cockerels wasn’t there. Then I saw this big black thing. It just made to run, scratching at the ground, then jumped straight over the fence at the back.

“It looked like a black panther.

“It scared me. I was so frightened, I ran in and shut the door. My heart was in my mouth. I had never seen anything like that in my life, in all my years.”

Mrs Rooke found one of her cockerels on her front lawn - it had leapt over a fence to get away - and the other was cowering in the back of its hut.

She said: “Afterwards it hit me - it could’ve attacked me. It was huge. I would say about three foot wide and about three foot long. “It was quite agile. It just soared over my fence - like it an athlete - and it was away.

“We’ve lived here four years and I have heard about things like this and always laughed. But I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m scared to death.

“When I saw the claw marks I thought I wasn’t dreaming. I thought ‘My God, it really was here’.”

Her husband David, 64, added: “I have never seen my wife’s hands shaking like that. I could see the fear in her face.

“It’s got to be something to make claw marks like that. That’s not your domestic cat - even the biggest domestic cat. The marks are really deep.

“The public need to know that this is out there. It needs to be in people’s minds. If it is something dangerous then I hope to God it’s not going to attack any human being, or a child.”

The first physical evidence of a possible big cat in Calderdale was in 2005 when a farmer in Shibden discovered the ravaged remains of a sheep - which had had its stripped from its back legs.

There has been a string of sightings reported to the Courier this year in Lightcliffe, Ogden, Ainley Top, Queensbury and Boothtown.

The Courier sent these latest photos to Danny Bamping of the British Big Cats Society. He said it is difficult to confirm whether it is a big cat but combined with the witness sighting it is “quite convincing”.

He said: “Hearing about the sighting that goes with it, does make it all very intriguing. Combined with the other recent and historical sightings in the area, the evidence does seem to point in one direction.”

Calderdale police’s wildlife office special constable Phil Sanderson said the prints definitely look like a cat.

But added: “We aren’t saying there are no big cats in Calderdale but we haven’t had reports of domestic animals being attacked. Having said that, there are plenty of ordinary land game, like rabbits, to keep them going. But we can’t say yes or no until one is actually cornered.

“If there are big cats then the public haven’t anything to fear in as much as at the moment they seem quite happy to eat the land game.”

He added if anyone comes into contact with the cat to ring police immediately.