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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Wild cat on loose 'is puma'
The big cat was blamed for an attack on this sheep
The big cat was blamed for an attack on this sheep

Animal charity the USPCA has said it is convinced the big cat on the loose in north Antrim is a puma.

In the latest sighting, the cat was spotted on Thursday night chasing a large flock of sheep into the corner of a field.

The farmer called the police but the cat ran into adjoining woodland at Benvarden Road near Ballymoney.

The sighting was very close to the discovery earlier on Thursday of a sheep believed to have been mauled by an animal.

On that occasion, two policemen reported seeing the cat in a field and soon afterwards they found the body of a dead sheep.

There have been more than 20 sightings of a wild cat on Northern Ireland's north coast.

USPCA chief executive Stephen Philpott said he was convinced the cat was a puma.

"Now the challenge is how we remove it from the Northern Ireland countryside."

He said the sheep's injuries were consistent with those found on another sheep and a ram killed recently in the area. Their wounds suggested they had been attacked by a large animal.

"The injuries to the sheep, to use the owner's words, were the like of which he had never seen in 60 years of sheep farming," he said.

People are getting very concerned about their families and their animals
Ian Gregg
Ulster Farmers Union

"It is remarkable, it is consistent with the two other carcases I have examined this week in this area."

Mr Philpott said that this animal was an "amateur" who was used to receiving his food on a plate.

He added that there were no records of animals such as these ever attacking their owners when they were being kept as domestic pets.

The Ulster Farmers Union said the farming community was increasingly worried about the big cat.

Spokesman Ian Gregg said it was time the animal was caught.

"This thing has been dragging on for several weeks, people are getting very concerned about their families and their animals," he said.

Last week, police wildlife liaison officer Chief Inspector Mark Mason said the animal was unlikely to pose any risk to people.

"Even in the wild, these animals will normally only attack the weak and the lame," he said.

"This animal has been born and bred in captivity - it's used to being fed on dead animals, like dead birds or bits of meat.

"It is not used to killing to live - therefore I think it is of very low risk to us."




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI Jeremy Mitchell reports
"The animal disappeared as the police officers moved in to investigate"



SEE ALSO:
Fears of further big cat attacks
21 Aug 03  |  Northern Ireland
Release of wild cats 'deliberate'
19 Aug 03  |  Northern Ireland
Search for puma continues
09 Aug 03  |  Northern Ireland
'Wild cat' remains at large
11 Aug 03  |  Northern Ireland


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