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Friday, November 20, 1998 Published at 18:22 GMT


Hunters try to bag Dartmoor lion

Could an animal like this be hiding on the moor?

Lion hunters armed with shotguns are being warned by police not to roam the fringes of Dartmoor.

Devon and Cornwall Police say that since a young male lion was apparently spotted on the loose near the village of Wrangleton, reports of would-be hunters wanting to bag the beast have also been made.

Armed police and tracker dogs spent most of Thursday searching fields, hedges and woods after a motorist said that the bloody-maned beast jumped through a hedge near the south Devon village.

The search was later called off, but police say it will be reactivated if there is a fresh sighting.

Now, however, they say they are equally concerned about people with shotguns looking for the animal.

[ image: A lion should not attack unless provoked]
A lion should not attack unless provoked
"We are actively discouraging this because of concerns for personal safety," said Sergeant Alan Mobbs.

He said a lion was unlikely to attack unless cornered.

And he said that even being armed with a gun would not necessarily help in the event of a big cat attack.

Sergeant Alex Johnston said a lion could travel up to 50 miles in 12 hours.

"There are 365 square miles of Dartmoor so it could be anywhere.

"We have had reports over the last 15 to 20 years of big cats in Devon and Cornwall and no-one has been attacked. It is unlikely to happen now."

Devon County Council said on Friday that, following advice from police, parents of school children in the Wrangaton and South Brent areas were advised to return to normal arrangements for school travel.

Print belongs to big cat

On Thursday it had been advised as a precaution that youngsters should not walk or cycle to school alone, and those travelling by bus should be met.

Big cats specialist Robin Godbeer, from Dartmoor Wildlife Park at Sparkwell near Ivybridge, took a cast of a pawprint left at the scene of the sighting.

He confirmed on Thursday that it was thought to belong to a "big cat".

Although he could not identify the species, he said it was big enough to be from a juvenile male lion, which would weigh between 15 and 18 stone.

The sighting which sparked off the lion alert was made by Paul Gourley, 42, who saw the animal run into fields as he drove along a country road near Wrangaton after dropping his children off at school.

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