A black leopard. Photo: Tambako the Jaguar CC-BY-ND-2.0

A black leopard. Photo: Tambako the Jaguar CC-BY-ND-2.0

Police in the Highlands are warning walkers to be on their guard after a member of the public spotted a large animal in woods.

Northern Constabulary described the animal as a very large, black cat which was seen by a walker in Inshriach Forest near Kincraig, south of Aviemore.

Police are asking walkers to report any sightings of unusual wildlife. A spokesperson for Northern Constabulary said: “The person who reported the sighting was certain the animal was a cat and was the size of a German shepherd dog. The report is unconfirmed.”

The sighting was on Tuesday at about 11.15am in the woodland, at the northern end of Glen Feshie.

Reported sightings of big cats are not rare in Scotland, with instances so far this year occurring in Fife, Galloway, Selkirk, Dunfermline and even Milngavie, the Glasgow suburb which is the starting point of the West Highland Way.

Douglas Richardson, animal manager of the Highland Wildlife Park near Kincraig, said the chances of it being a large cat are remote and that mistaken sightings are common. He pointed out the general public often has difficulties identifying even human beings.

He said: “I’ve been called out on many wild goose chases after sightings like this. They usually end up being a dog that’s been seen.

“A large cat could survive in this area, but the chances of this being a genuine sighting of a large cat are very remote.”

The only two types of large cat corresponding to the description, he said, are the black leopard and the black jaguar.

The wildlife park has Amur tigers and Carpathian lynx, in addition to Scottish wildcats.

Police appealed for anyone with information on the Inshriach sighting to contact them at Aviemore police station on 01479 810222.

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