Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Big cats in Scotland?

Reports have been few and far between in recent years but it appears the fabled Beast of Buchan may be back on the prowl.

The shredded carcase of a black sheep was discovered in a field near Cruden bay last week - prompting suggestions that there could indeed be something out there.

Farmer Jim Cantlay (77), who owns Nether Broadmuir Farm near Cruden Bay, has looked after sheep most of his life, but admits that he had never seen anything like it in more than 50 years of farming when he spotted the carcase as he routinely checked his sheep last Monday.

"I thought it was just a lump of muck when I first saw it, but when I moved in closer I got a bit of a shock," said Mr Cantlay.

"All that was left was the rib cage which had been completely stripped of all flesh, with its partly chewed head still attached.

"All of the other sheep in the field were huddled in a corner, so there must have been something that frightened them.

"I don't think it could have been dogs that had come into the field, as the sheep would have been scampering, but they were quite still.

"I've never seen anything like it in my life," he added.

Sightings of the Beast of Buchan, believed to be a black, panther-like animal, are rumoured to have been made in the North-East over the last few years.

And Mr Cantlay revealed there have been sightings in the past in the Cruden Bay area.

"A few folk have said that they have seen it, and I wouldn't have believed it at all up until now, but now I'm not so sure," said Mr Cantlay.

The savaged lamb, which was around six-months old, had been dragged 27 yards from where it had been killed, according to a neighbour who had gone to the field after Mr Cantlay told him about what had happened.

It is believed that black cats could have been prowling the Buchan countryside for around 35 years, after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was introduced in the 70s, stopping people from owning animals such as lions and tigers without proper permission.

Many people then decided to release their wild animals into the countryside - which wasn't an offence at the time - in order to avoid getting into trouble for keeping them, or to avoid the high costs of getting the proper licences to keep them.

Commenting on the latest incident an SSPCA spokeswoman said that wild cats could possibly have been living quietly in the Buchan countryside ever since.

"The habitat and climate is good for wild cats to live in, and they could live on rabbits and other small rabbits, so it is possible that such an animal would exist," she said.

"There is a concern that these big cats are using farm animals, like lambs, as food, although they are of little danger to humans because they tend to shy away from them.

"There is a danger that the public can over react to something like this, although this does seem like a very unusual case, and I can understand the farmer's concern.

"It is likely that a big cat would have taken a carcase back to its lair, so it's difficult to say what might have done this, although it is entirely possible that this could have been the work of some sort of a big cat'" she added. news/beast_of_buchan.asp

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