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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Hunt for real life 'were-rabbit'
Sharp-shooters have been brought in to defend allotment patches in Northumberland suffering from a real-life "curse of the were-rabbit".

The ravenous giant rabbit, named after the famed Wallace and Gromit character, is reported to have ripped up dozens of prize-winning leeks and turnips.

Now growers in Felton, near Morpeth, have drafted in licensed gamekeepers with air rifles to halt the rampage.

But animal welfare workers have called for the animal to be trapped instead.

Four gardeners described the rabbit as having one ear larger than the other.

The main clues are oversized paw prints and sightings of what growers claim to be a cross between a hare and a rabbit.

It's been taking huge bites out of cabbages, carrots and turnips... it's a hungry fella
Marksman Brian Cadman

A small group of allotment holders have now clubbed together to hire two air rifle marksmen with orders to shoot to kill.

Grower Jeff Smith, 63, said: "This is no ordinary rabbit. We are dealing with a monster.

"It is absolutely massive. I have seen its prints and they are huge, bigger than a deer. It is a brute of a thing."

Mr Smith, who has kept an allotment for 25 years, added: "We have two lads here with guns who are trying to shoot it, but it is clever.

"They never see it. There were big rabbits in the 1950s and 1960s before pesticides were introduced, but not like this."

Marksman Brian Cadman, 17, said: "We've been told to shoot on sight, but we've not had much luck yet.

"You can see what it's been eating.

"It's been taking huge bites out of cabbages, carrots and turnips. It's a hungry fella."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) urged the growers to set a humane trap for the animal and release it elsewhere.

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