THE Isle of Wight has had its fair share of big cat sightings over the past century or so — and it has attracted plenty of visits from experts too.

In the early to mid-1980s, sightings were plentiful, so much so that in March 1984, Devon naturalist and big cat author, Di Francis, spent a day on the Island in connection with her hopes to gain sponsorship for a three-month expedition here to track down one of the elusive creatures.

Scroll through our gallery above to see more big cat photos and press clippings...

She went to the scene of the latest Isle of Wight sightings of one of the large cats — a copse adjacent to the Lynnbottom tip — to photograph the paw-prints which she suspected the animal had made.

Isle of Wight County Press: IWCP big cat encounter cuttings, March 30, 1984

The County Press story about Di Francis's visit in March 1984.

She also met with one of the eyewitnesses in the latest sighting, who reported he had seen something about the size of an Alsatian dog, which wandered close to the car when they were dumping rubbish at the tip.

In May 1984, there were two big cat sightings in Newport.

Carisbrooke High School pupil Gavin Parker saw one of the strange animals on land off Wellington Road in the middle of the day.

It was also spotted by Karen Lambert, who was walking up Petticoat Lane when she spotted the animal in a field.

She said it had a dark head and tail and sandy-coloured body like a Siamese cat, but it was the size of a large labrador dog.

Isle of Wight County Press: The late Ken Frogbrook, who farmed at Stagwell, where lambs were taken by a big cat. Photo: IWCP Archive.

The late Ken Frogbrook, whose lambs were taken by a big cat in 1985. Photo: IWCP Archive.

In April and May 1985, Ken Frogbrook, who farmed at Stagwell near Parkhurst Forest, lost two lambs from his flock of rare Shetland sheep.

He believed a big cat was responsible, having himself seen the creature in the area.

According to County Press reports, the number of reported sightings on the Isle of Wight was in the region of 110 during the two-and-a-half year period leading up to June 1985.

Also in June 1985, Roy Kingswell of Rowborough Farm, near Shorwell, discovered a dead lamb and immediately took the carcass to Jack Corney, proprietor of the Isle of Wight Zoo at Sandown for his opinion.

Jack said the 60lb. lamb could have been killed by a large animal, but he was unable to say with certainty what kind.

Fast-forward to January 1994 and Martin Trippett, founder of the Island Naturalist Group, took fellow members on a night-time search for the cats using specialist infrared equipment — although they didn’t see anything.

Also at that time, Birmingham-based mystery cat expert Dr Karl Shuker, identified an animal shot on the Isle of Wight seven years previously as an Asian leopard cat.

Isle of Wight County Press: IWCP big cat encounter cuttings, April 19, 2002

The County Press front page story from April 19, 2002.

In April 2002, two sisters shot home video footage of what they believed was a big cat stalking the countryside on the Isle of Wight.

It was thought to be the first time such a creature had been caught on camera on the Island.

The footage was shot near the Chequers Inn, Rookley, by sisters Rachael Dethridge, of Kingston-Upon-Thames and Beverly Futers, of Chale.

Beverly said: “There is absolutely no way it was a domestic cat — you could tell by its size and the way it moved with a swagger.”

After looking at the video, Isle of Wight Zoo owner Jack Corney said the creature could well be a small black leopard.

Not long after that, in January 2003, a feline creature said to be the size of a labrador was observed for several minutes through binoculars by staff at the B-N Group airfield in Bembridge.

It was described as dark brown or brindle, like a black leopard, but police said despite a search of the scene, neither the animal or traces of its existence were found.

In May 2010, Trudy Boulton, of Whitepit Lane, Newport, and her father, David Boulton, saw a large cat in the field behind David’s home in Garden Way, Pan.

Trudy said: “When I had a look through his binoculars, I could see it walking along the hedgerow. Normally you can just make out a fox or a badger, but this was huge.

“It was a beige colour with a long tail and it moved very gracefully, like a lion.”

Isle of Wight County Press: Jack Corney, with Flash the cheetah at Sandown Zoo (IW Zoo). Photo: IWCP Archive.

07/05/1998 9805*2066 Neg. No. 33

The late Jack Corney, who was often asked for his opinion on big cat sightings on the Isle of Wight. Photo: IWCP Archive.

In June 2012, Ventnor mum Michelle Angell had a night-time fright after a mysterious big cat climbed through her bedroom window, smashing a bedside lamp.

She said it was too big to be a domestic cat and “was very frantic and behaved like a wild animal.”

The most recent sighting reported to the County Press was in February this year, which suggests big cats are still out there.

LATEST SIGHTING: Island family reports 'black panther' sighting in Newport 

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Have you ever seen a mysterious big cat on the Isle of Wight? If so, we would love to hear from you! Email: