Whether it be the beast of Cannock Chase or the wild cat of Shropshire, sightings of big cats are increasing, it was claimed yesterday.
The British Big Cats Society said there had been more than 200 sightings across the region, with 87 spotted in the West Midlands conurbation between April 2004 and last July.
According to the latest figures, 71 wild cats were seen in Staffordshire, 48 in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, 33 in Shropshire and two in Warwickshire.
Nationally the number of sightings compiled by the society was 2,123 compared with 2,052 the previous year and 780 three years ago.
Shirley Lewis, who farms 400 acres near Highley, Shropshire, has captured a large black cat on camera and had it verified as a big cat by the society.
She said she spotted the animal on the farm two years ago but the latest sighting was by a man walking through woodland last month.
"He was around the farm about a month ago and there have been different sightings. A man was walking through the wood at Chelmarsh to go to work and looked behind him to see a big cat following him.
"I last saw him two years ago when he was just sitting sunning himself. My husband said he had two sheep mysteriously bitten one year, either by a dog or something bigger because it had ripped their insides out. If it had been a local dog we would have had more attacks."
The report said that, while a third of sightings could be discounted as the work of cranks or cases of mistaken identity, others were hard to discount.
About 60 per cent of reported sightings were of panther-like cats, 32 per cent were of brown or sandy-coloured creatures, possibly pumas and six per cent resembling a lynx.
Peter Shirley, regional director of the Wildlife Trusts, said while some cats may be lurking in the wild he questioned why there was no clear decent footage showing the creatures.
He added: "What we do know is that big cats have been released from captivity at different times over the past 20 to 30 years. I think there probably have been, or are, big cats on the loose in this country but the big question is why is it that people can go to remote parts of the world and get footage of rare big cats but not one person has got decent footage of big cats here in England?
"When people see things in poor light, the light can play tricks on perspective and the perception of size."
The nationwide figures published by the society included five reported attacks on horses, 37 sheep kills and several paw prints, of which plaster casts were taken.
The society said it had also gathered evidence of at least 23 releases of big cats since the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was passed in 1976.
Danny Bamping, the founder of the group, said: "This year we have been able to study evidence in greater detail and we estimate that just under a third of all reported sightings are not of big cats."