This is the moment a dog walker came face-to-face with a big cat while walking through woodland at night in a terrifying encounter with a suspected puma.

Toby Matthews, 32, captured incredible footage of the large black beast prowling in the darkness at around 8.30pm on Wednesday, November 18.

He had been walking his dog Tilly by torchlight when the beam landed on the shape of a big cat ahead of him at Wood Pit Nature Reserve, in Coed Talon, North Wales.

Hypnotherapist Toby said he quickly backtracked but was too scared to run in case the creature gave chase while his one-year-old pet also retreated in fright.

It is been a second big cat sighting in Flintshire in less than a month and there are now fears a puma is on the loose in the Welsh countryside.

Toby, of Caergwrle, Flintshire, is convinced the animal – which was about three times the size of a Labrador – was a puma as the area has a history of big cat sightings.

He spotted the creature on the old railway line which runs through the reserve, in the middle of a dense wooded valley and admitted it was "the stuff of nightmares."

Toby said: "I was going along sending a Snapchat, it was a bit misty and spooky and I just wanted to show my partner.

"So I was actually looking at my phone screen when I first spotted something big moving.

"I looked up and had a sudden moment of shock, almost like when you wake up suddenly from a dream feeling like you're falling.

"Maybe 50 or 60 feet away was an enormous black cat looking right at me.

"I had my phone in one hand and both the dog's lead and the torch in the other, so when I looked up I managed to drop the torch. I picked it back up and looked around again.

"It had moved to the opposite side of the path and wasn't really moving at all.

"It seemed hesitant of me and Tilly and I think it cowered slightly when we approached with the torch.

"I'd guess the torch shining directly at it meant it couldn't really see us, only hear me and Tilly.

"I could tell the dog was scared and she started pulling back towards Pontybodkin, I took a photo then turned around and quickly walked back.

"I wanted to start running but was worried it'd give chase."

The sighting comes less that a month after local cafe owner Robert Kardziz reported being confronted by a mystery beast in Pentre Halkyn as he locked up.

And in 2013, an all-black big cat was seen moving through a paddock in the early hours of the morning in Treuddyn.

In 2006, before finding fame on the Netflix Tiger King documentary, Carole Baskin wrote on Big Cat Rescue's website: "Earlier this year there were confirmed reports and prints of a puma near Treuddyn and Leeswood near Mold".

Toby added: "I'm convinced that it was a puma, it was about two or three times the size of my little Labrador.

"It was probably around the same size as some of the jaguars at the zoo, and I think it was completely black.

"I heard about big cats being spotted around Mold and Leeswood a few years ago, and we're right next to Leeswood here.

"It's a really deserted and rural area and I rarely pass anyone else on walks, there's thick woodland either side of the path where animals can probably stay undisturbed for years.

"Since the clocks went back it's already dark by the time I finish work, I'd got a bit fed up with walking around housing estates for the streetlights so this week I found a torch and started going up and down the old railway line again.

"This was the third time I walked it in the dark, it was just me and Tilly and we'd been walking for maybe 20 minutes when it happened.

"I'll definitely be sticking to the villages from now on and I'll never be going down the old railway line on my own again.

"Sometimes you get grass snakes dropping out of trees down there, which can take some getting used to, but this has really shaken me up."

A spokesperson for Puma Watch, which collects data on big cat sightings in the UK, said: "There are countless accounts of sightings shared by locals, both recent and historic.

"It seems it's common knowledge among many local communities that a small population of big cats such as pumas exist within North Wales.

"We believe most of those reporting sightings did indeed see pumas or cougars.

"Some people say they aren't sure and it could have been something more common, though we have a Twitter account with a small established following and from the sightings reported to us, it's clear many are seriously and genuinely concerned.

"When exotic pets were banned in the 1970's, many owners released them into the wild.

"It was completely legal to do this for several years until another law was passed to close the loophole.

"Big cats are well suited to the Welsh climate and terrain and as it was important to keep them away from humans, big cat owners from across large areas of England may have travelled to Wales to release their beloved pet in what they thought would be a better environment for it to prosper.

"Small populations are reported in Snowdonia and in the Clwydian Hills, and with the solitary animals roaming a large territory, this could well be why so many sightings are reported in the villages below, such as Leeswood, Treuyddn and Pontybodkin."

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