A MEMBER of the Senedd has called on the Welsh Government to investigate claims that there is a big cat population in North Wales.

Clwyd West MS Darren Millar said he first raised the issue in 2014.

But, after a spate of sightings and other encounters in Flintshire and Denbighshire, Mr Millar called on the Welsh Government to investigate during a virtual meeting of the Senedd.

Mr Millar said: “You'll be aware that in North East Wales there have been a spate of sightings of big cats in the Welsh countryside in recent months.

“Many members of the farming community in particular are concerned about the impact that these may have on their livestock in the future, yet, we are without any statement from the Welsh Government at the moment as to what investigations are being undertaken into these sightings.

"We need an urgent statement from the Welsh Government Minister responsible for rural affairs as soon as possible.”

Video was captured by Jonathan Terry of a creature "the size of a sheep and possibly even bigger".

Since October last year, there have been reporting sightings in Abergele, Corwen, Mold, Pentre Halkyn, Pontybodkin, Rhuallt and Talacre.

After the Senedd session, Mr. Millar added: “The Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 made it illegal to keep untamed pets. Many owners of exotic cats such as pumas or lynx simply freed their animals into the countryside.

“I first raised this issue in the Senedd back in 2014 following a number of sightings in Conwy and Denbighshire.

“It is a real worry that seven years on we are still getting reports of big cats being spotted in our countryside here in North Wales. A thorough investigation is therefore needed urgently before someone is hurt or worse.”

Last month, Welsh Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths replied to a similar enquiry from Delyn MP Rob Roberts.

She said that no conclusive evidence of big cats in Wales had been found as yet but that reports made to the Department for Economy, Skills and Natural Resources are investigated.

She said: “The Welsh Government’s policy is to investigate any reports received by the Department for Economy, Skills and Natural Resources of alleged sightings and attacks by big cats on livestock in Wales.”

“Alleged sightings reported to the Welsh Government are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. If hard evidence is provided, my officials from the Wildlife Team carry out site visits, collect livestock carcasses for post mortem, assess video footage, take casts of paw prints and investigate any other evidence indicating the possible presence of big cats.”

However, some people would rather the big cats of North Wales, should they be real or otherwise, should not be investigated.

In a Facebook comment on the Puma Watch North Wales page, one user said: "Please leave them alone - they've been around for years and mainly keep themselves to themselves,"