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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 August, 2003, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Search for puma continues
Volunteers lay bait for the animal which was seen in County Antrim
A search is going on for a big cat which has been spotted on the north coast of Northern Ireland.

The search began on Friday after several sightings in the Portrush, Portballintrae and Bushmills area.

There have been numerous sightings of the animal but the rough terrain is making it difficult to capture it.

In the meantime, searchers are using whole chickens as bait and placing them at various locations which show signs that the animal has been there.

Stephen Philpott, from the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said he believed the animal, thought to be a lynx or a puma, escaped from a private collection.

"There are at least four of these creatures on the loose in Northern Ireland and we have not been very successful in capturing any of them yet," he said.

"We are very interested to see what it is and where it has come from so we can stop this trade in exotic pets which is a silly practise."

It is not an offence to own such an animal in the province but the animal could prove dangerous if it is cornered.

Police and the USPCA are involved in the hunt for the animal and have warned anyone who sees the animal not to approach it.

Inspector Milne Roundtree of Coleraine Police said anyone who had any information about the animal should contact the police.

"This is a large, wild cat which may have escaped from a private collection," he said.

"We are currently coordinating a search with the USPCA to locate the animal."

Officers are trying to contain the animal in a four mile square area between Portrush and Bushmills in an attempt to capture it.

BBC NI's Barbara McCann:
"There have been numerous sightings of the animal but the rough terrain is making it difficult to capture it"

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