‘BIG cat’ sightings have been reported to Cumbria Police more than 400 times in the last three years.

The calls are just one category among a host of bizarre emergency calls which are regularly fielded by control room staff at the Cumbrian force’s Carleton Hall HQ near Penrith.

Figures show some of the stranger calls staff have had which often have little or nothing to do with crime.

Over the three years to January this year, force staff have taken:

* 448 calls about sightings of ‘big cats’ of various kinds.

* 25 calls about “ghosts, hauntings and poltergeists”.

* 27 reports of “aliens” or “strange lights”.

* 41 requests for directions.

* 5 Calls reporting that property has been lost.

* 117 calls about medical issues.

* And one person calling to ask for the time.

Police confirmed that the big cats included reports of animals identified as pumas, panthers, lions, tigers, wild-cats, cheetahs, leopards and lynx. After some of the reports, the county’s specialist wildlife officer was informed.

Sharon Larkin-Snowden, 49, who runs a Big Cats in Cumbria Facebook page, said she was “shocked” by the high number of sightings. “I’d be interested to know if there are areas where the sightings are concentrated.

“I get a lot of sightings come into to me and I do some work with the police.

“But people often want to keep it confidential.”

Sharon, 49, spoke of a sighting of a big cat sighting in the Longtown area; and - more intriguingly - suggestions of up to four big felines living in the Thirlmere Valley area, where she says deer numbers have declined.

In April last year, she published a photo of what she believes is a caracal, a medium-sized wild cat usually native to Africa. It was reportedly photographed in Cumbria.

Among the other unusual calls fielded by Cumbria police are those relating to alleged ‘ghost” sightings. In one call, a control room worker was told about “people dressed up as ghosts - or real ghosts” in their home. Another caller asked for directions to the nearest filling station.