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Dunwich author pens book, Mystery Animals of Suffolk, which features big cat sightings in Bury St Edmunds and Wortham, near Diss





Warning: This article contains images readers may find upsetting

Pumas, bobcats and leopards – these are all big cats which have supposedly been spotted prowling the Suffolk landscape.

Author Matt Salusbury has researched various big cat sightings and other strange or unusual creatures over the years in his new book called Mystery Animals of Suffolk.

The book, which took a decade to write, features accounts of over 150 big cat sightings in East Anglia, as well as folklore and other strange tales from the region which was briefly known as the ‘Curious County’ – according to Matt’s book.

Author Matt Salusbury has penned a book ‘Mystery Animals of Suffolk’ which features over 150 big cat sightings in Suffolk. Picture: Jane Inglesfield
Author Matt Salusbury has penned a book ‘Mystery Animals of Suffolk’ which features over 150 big cat sightings in Suffolk. Picture: Jane Inglesfield

Despite never having seen a big cat sighting himself, the 59-year-old said he was always interested in zoology and natural history, with his mother being among the first cohort of female students to go to Oxford University. She studied zoology.

When he became a freelance journalist, he began writing for the Fortean Times, a magazine about strange phenomena, which he has contributed to for the past 20 years.

One of the top sightings mentioned in the book was in 2010 in Wortham near Diss. From his back garden, Lee Acaster, a wildlife photographer, spotted and filmed what looks like a black leopard strolling across a field.

A map of black big cat sightings in Suffolk. Picture: Matt Salusbury
A map of black big cat sightings in Suffolk. Picture: Matt Salusbury

Matt said: “The video shows what looks like a black leopard – mainly because of the way it moves. It’s not so obvious from the photos but the way it moves is sort of muscular and also it climbs onto a bit of raised ground and then you can clearly see the stubble.

“I went back to the location with the man who filmed it and you can see from the height of the stubble you’ve got a pretty good idea of high its legs would need to be to clear that. It would need to be pretty massive.”

He said there’s been various reports from wildlife management teams across the county about deer carcasses which look to have been killed by big cats.

Another notable sighting was in Dunwich Forest, in Dunwich, near Southwold, where a man walking his dog saw a what he thought was a lynx in the 2010s. Matt said this account was particularly interesting because the man’s dog gave chase.

There was also a sighting in Bury St Edmunds in the area where Marham Park is now back in 2009. Matt said he spoke to someone who said their mother had seen a black big cat in the branches of a cedar tree.

Matt Salusbury has had an interest in zoology and natural history for a number of years. Picture: Hazel Dunlop (www.hazeldunlop.com)
Matt Salusbury has had an interest in zoology and natural history for a number of years. Picture: Hazel Dunlop (www.hazeldunlop.com)

More recently, a father and son said they saw a jaguar-type big cat and prints on that estate last summer.

He believes that when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act came into force in the 1970s, individuals that owned big cats released them into the wild – and this is why we could have such animals roaming the countryside.

A reconstruction image of a big cat sighting. Picture: Matt Salusbury
A reconstruction image of a big cat sighting. Picture: Matt Salusbury

“Until then people had been keeping lions in sheds and a lot of hopeless owners, who really shouldn’t have been keeping them, let them go because they couldn’t be bothered to deal with the paperwork and the expense,” he added.

There is also another theory that domesticated cats have gotten bigger.

On Matt’s website, Big Cats of Suffolk An Investigation By Matt Salusbury, there is a section where people can report sightings. He said he receives reports of sightings every other day – some recent and some historic and that there seems to be a large number of sightings in North Suffolk.

A potential big cat kill sign – half a muntjac found 10 foot up a tree in Knettishall Heath in 2020. Picture: Lee Acaster
A potential big cat kill sign – half a muntjac found 10 foot up a tree in Knettishall Heath in 2020. Picture: Lee Acaster

The book can be purchased from Bittern Books or Amazon.

It can also be bought from Aldeburgh Bookshop, Halesworth Bookshop, The Chocolate Box in Bungay and Dunwich Museum.