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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
'Wild cat' remains at large
Volunteers laying bait for the animal
Volunteers lay bait for the animal which was seen in County Antrim
People have been warned not to approach 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, suspected to be a young puma, but the rough terrain has made it difficult to capture.

In the meantime, food placed at various locations as bait has shown signs that the animal has been there.

Animal welfare workers believe the cat may have escaped from a private collection.

Most of the people I've spoken to in the last two days who saw the animal, couldn't believe what they were seeing
Stephen Philpott
USPCA
It is believed at least four such animals are on the loose in Northern Ireland.

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

Stephen Philpott, from the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said on Monday that the public should not approach the animal.

"Most of the people I've spoken to in the last two days who saw the animal, couldn't believe what they were seeing," he said.

"The animal had almost disappeared before they had a chance to do anything.

"The first thing you do is ring the local police station or the USPCA, take a very good mental note of your exact location and we'll log it."

lynx
The big cat on the loose is thought to be a lynx or a puma
USPCA officials are meeting with police on Monday to discuss the strategy for catching the animal.

Inspector Milne Roundtree of Coleraine Police said on Saturday that 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."




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Paul McKillion reports:
"The animal can cover ten to twelve miles every night and there are concerns it may never be caught"



SEE ALSO:
Search for puma continues
09 Aug 03  |  Northern Ireland


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