PLANNERS have been urged to investigate a small area of woodland earmarked for development to make sure it is not part of the habitat of a panther or puma.

It comes as a creature that witnesses believe was a big cat was spotted in Chirk and Oswestry.

One of the sightings was near the Halton Roundabout in Chirk where outline plans for a development that would include a drive-thru coffee shop and charging area for electric vehicles have been submitted.

The sightings happened within less than 16 hours of each other.

A woman spotted a big cat at the edge of the car park at McDonald’s near Chirk at around 8pm on Friday, April 16.



The black animal, which she believes was a puma, jumped over a fence into a wooded area and undergrowth adjacent to the car park,

The next day, a man saw what Puma Watch North Wales, a group set up to investigate big cat sightings in the region, believe could be the same animal.

He said he was driving along along the A5, crossing the disused Oswestry level crossing, when he spotted a black, "huge cat" along the railway line.

The location is just over two miles from the McDonald’s in Chirk where the first encounter happened.

In a report to Puma Watch, the driver, called Dan, said: “After a family day out we were travelling back from Telford to North Wales.

“I was driving approaching the roundabout on the A5 towards Oswestry where the railway track crossed I glanced down the track and saw what I can only describe as a very large black animal was sat 100 yards down the track between the rails.

“In all honesty my first thought was that’s a huge cat. I would estimate its height sat down to be 3-3.5ft high.

“I didn’t actually say anything at the time to my wife because I thought she’d laugh and dismiss it.”

Dan’s description of the animal is eerily similar to the one seen in Chirk the previous evening.

That witness, called Georgina, said: “An extremely large cat, the size of a dog, jumped over a fence at the back of McDonald’s car park into the wooded area.”

“I’m sure my partner & I cant be the only ones who saw this.”

Plans were recently submitted to Wrexham Council to construct a drive-thru coffee shop on the wooded land adjacent to McDonald’s car park, where the animal was seen.

Puma Watch has now made a representation as part of the planning process requesting the developers ensure the proposed site and surrounding woodlands is not home to a big cat.

Tony Jones, of Puma Watch North Wales, said: "Big cats such as pumas are solitary with a hunting range of dozens of miles. They’re mostly spotted in Snowdonia and the Clwydian hills but reports of sightings in urban locations some distance from these areas are becoming more frequent.

"As seen with Llandundo’s now-famous goats, who have taken to roaming the town’s deserted streets during the coronavirus lockdowns, it’s likely that the reduced levels of human activity over the last year is encouraging big cats to roam further from the hills into more populated areas.

"Earlier this year, the Welsh Government responded to the recent spate of sightings and confirmed the steps they take to investigate any reported to them, including taking casts of paw prints.

"When big cats were banned as pets in the 1970s, it was legal to release them into the countryside to avoid expensive rehoming costs. Owners from across the UK travelled to areas like Wales to release their cats in the remote environment, where small but significant populations have thrived ever since."