Six months after my first evidence of something that could have been sign of a big cat I found myself speaking to a resident on the opposite end of this remote valley. He owned quite a bit of land, lived in an ancient farmhouse and was a retired CEO type with small coterie of domestic cats. He did not strike me as a person who was prone to hyperbole. But you never know.
He had told me that about four or five years previously he had visited Dartmoor Zoo and a female Puma, on heat, had called out…and moments later a reciprocating call was heard out on the Moor. I thought however that it could have just been an echo. I did not say so at the time. Then he leaned into me, conspiritorially, and said that he suspected that there was a big cat of some sort in the forest, feeding on the massive overpopulation of deer. He said that one evening, after dark, a couple of years ago all his cats rushed in from outside into the kitchen in high states of excitment and distress. Then came a call from down in the depths of the valley. The same call as he had heard at Dartmoor Zoo a couple of years previously. I gulped. That night I was due to spend sleeping in those woods!
If this was not freaky enough I also had a friend that owned Russian Deerhounds up at the far end of the same forest and a couple of years ago she had gone outside at dusk after hearing a commotion and found one of her large (slightly grey-reddy coloured) deerhounds on its side with a broken neck. Quickly taken to the vet an x-ray showed a broken neck (vertebrae), a couple of puncture marks (possibly left by teeth) and the vet had commented that the force of a pull ‘up’ on the neck had broken it. Possibly through the action of the jaws and a weight or momentum of the owner of those large teeth. The Deerhound is the size of a fallow deer, similar colouring, and maybe at dusk mistaken for one. If this was not so bad, the same friend had found a decapitated head of a deer in the centre of their large lawn around the same time. But for me there was still no conclusive evidence and no sighting. The Deerhound might have been in a fight with another dog and fallen and the deer head might have been dragged there by a scavenger. I had not seen the head to gauge how fresh it was either.
That night, as I retired to my hammock in the woods, I must admit I was a little un-nerved. And maybe this contributed to my reaction as to what I saw two-days hence.