Hi,my name’s Chris Mullins and I’d just like to tell you the story of BeastWatch UK.
Since early childhood I took a great interest in the natural world, my first experience with any form of wildlife was when I was about 6-7yrs old, my parents took me to be registered with a boarding school, it was Craven Lodge in Melton Mowbray for those that may know the place, yes, it was a boarding school for children with learning difficulties, the reason I had learning difficulties though was because I was involved in a hit and run when I was about 5yrs old, so spent a fair amount of time in hospital, so much so, that I’d fallen right behind with my tutoring. My parent left me to play outside in the school’s grounds whilst they went in to see the headmaster, and as I walked around what seemed like massive grounds to me then, I startled a hare, I was so intrigued I ran after it as fast as my little legs could carry me, obviously, the hare out ran me though. My second encounter was when a bat flew into our dormitory, everyone was screaming except yours truly, and it flew straight under my bed, so what did I do, yeah, you guessed it, I went under and fetched it out, it never bit me and when I opened my hand to show them all that it was nothing to be afraid of, it flew off and the screaming started yet again. Well, it caused such a commotion that evening, that I ended up getting 6 of the best from the headmaster for it, but only when he caught me, because he had to chase me all round his office first.
Anyhow, as I slowly matured, (never did really) and left school, I would go off for hour upon hour to my favourite woods, I remember the very first badger sett I ever came across there, I thought it was a bear’s den and I’d sit for hours in the ploughed field waiting for it to emerge evening after evening, I could hear something ambling through the dense foliage, but never saw a thing.
As I grew older and learnt more about badgers and foxes etc, I’d sit for hours watching them emerge from their setts and earths, took some decent photos as well. But despite my passion for wildlife and everything I’d done, I always felt there was something missing, then I recall watching a program on TV one evening about the Surrey puma, then there was an interview with someone called Trevor Beer if I recall correctly and Di Francis also, they were talking about the Beast of Exmoor., I was just fascinated and had to learn more, then after reading our local newspaper one day I read about a David Spencer asking for reports on any big cat sighting in Leicestershire, I took note of his number and rang him straight away, he was really helpful and shared every bit of evidence he’s collated throughout his years of studying them, which was spurred on by his own encounter, David became a good friend and mentor until I eventually branched out on my own.
Well although I found our British big cats a fascinating subject to study, I still felt there was something else missing, then one day David gave me a newsletter from the EAR (Exotic Animals Register) they’d collected reports of all types of exotic animals that had been reported here in the UK, this was it, it was what I needed to climb my ladder to fulfilment, I joined the EAR but they very soon closed down shortly after me joining, so feeling bewildered but wanting to know more, in 2001 I decided to form my own organisation, BeastWatch UK here I’d collated quite a lot of unusual reports from a chinchilla found in a post-box, to piranha in the Thames, but that’s not the end of it, because in 2016 I received a report of a gentleman in Barrow-Upon -Soar that had lost his pet skunk, so I went to visit him, and seeing just how upset he was I’d decided from then on, to stop just collating reports and focus on becoming more involved as a Search & Rescue for these exotic animals, this went on for about 3 years then in 2019 we became a company, then later after talks with the emergency services we had to come up with a different name because they felt that with a name like BeastWatch UK it sounded more like were out hunting paedophiles. So, after some lengthy discussions NEARS (National Exotic Animal Rescue Services) was born, this then became the more operational side of BeastWatch UK Exotic Animal Search & Rescue Services. Then 2023 when NEARS was set to work separately from BeastWatch UK, I decided to return BeastWatch UK back to its origins, simply collating reports of exotic animals that roam our green pastures of the UK as well as obtaining reports or rewilding projects.