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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Release of wild cats 'deliberate'
The big cat on the loose is thought to be a lynx or a puma
The growing number of wild cats on the loose in Northern Ireland may be due to the deliberate release of the animals, according to the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Police and USPCA officers are searching woods outside Cookstown after the latest incident involving such an animal who killed and partly ate a calf in the area.

USPCA chief executive Stephen Philpott said he believed the animal may be a puma or lynx.

"People are told that these are companion animals, that they are exotic pets," he said.

"They are not, they are wild creatures and they will behave like that whenever they reach a certain age.

"These animals are being released in the countryside by irresponsible people who have bought them and can't cope with them.

"They take them into heavily wooded areas and release them.

"My own hunch is that it is either a puma or a lynx."

Last week, a similar animal was spotted on the north coast with several reports of sightings in the Portballintrae, Portrush and Bushmills areas.

People have been warned not to approach such an animal but to report any sightings to the police or the USPCA.

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

Search for puma continues
09 Aug 03  |  Northern Ireland
'Wild cat' remains at large
11 Aug 03  |  Northern Ireland

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