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Scheme afoot to catch the beast of Bexley'

PUBLISHED: 16:19 22 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:58 25 August 2010

MASAI MARA, KENYA - DECEMBER 12:  A Serval walks through grassland on Dec 12, 2007 in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

MASAI MARA, KENYA - DECEMBER 12: A Serval walks through grassland on Dec 12, 2007 in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

2008 Getty Images

A HUMANE trap is being set in an attempt to capture a big cat with markings similar to a leopard spotted by residents prowling in their gardens. Stevie Joyce of Baldwyn s Park, Bexley, has vowed to set a trap to try to capture the Beast of Bexley with

A panther-like creature was snapped in Longfield

A HUMANE trap is being set in an attempt to capture a big cat with markings similar to a leopard spotted by residents prowling in their gardens.

Stevie Joyce of Baldwyn's Park, Bexley, has vowed to set a trap to try to capture the "Beast of Bexley" with a humane fox trap and chicken as bait after he claims he spotted the creature days ago in a garden.

Big cats such as panthers, lynx and cougars have been reported over the years between Gravesend, Swanley and Bexley.

No one has managed to capture a wild big cat yet and pictures are rare - in September 2006 the Kent Big Cat Research Centre authenticated a picture of a panther taken in Main Road, Longfield by a Times reader.

Mr Joyce, 29, first saw what resembled a small leopard in his garden. He said: "It was huge, a lot bigger than a domestic cat, about the size of a large fox.

"My neighbour's daughter saw it as well, she called out to her mum 'There's a leopard at the bottom of the garden.'

"It was very timid and shot off too fast to get a picture of it.

"I put a chicken carcass out left over from a roast dinner and the next morning it was gone. It came back about five days ago probably looking for more food."

After researching big cats on the internet he is convinced the animal is a serval cat, native to South America and Africa, possibly initially kept illegally as a pet.

Mr Joyce said: "I think it will be tough trying to trap it, cats are very smart, but I'll give it a go and see what happens. I have a friend who works in zoo keeping who lent me the cage. He would be interested to see what type of cat it is if I can catch it."

In June, according to Kent Big Cat Research, there were numerous sightings of black leopards and cougars in Dartford.

The cats patrol large territories and in the belt between Northfleet, through Swanscombe up to Belvedere down to Bexley and Sidcup, 80 per cent of sightings are panthers.

Most animals spotted in Swanley up to Wilmington, Bean and south of Gravesend are pumas (cougars), which are roughly the same size as panthers.

Dartford and Gravesend residents have reported spotting Lynx, with distinctive pointy ears, greyish in colour with a very short tufty tail.

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