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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 18:35 GMT
Print 'proof' of big cat presence
Paw prints
Balbirnie cast (top), captive puma (right), dog (bottom), leopard (left)
Police believe they have the first conclusive proof a big cat, dubbed the "Beast of Balbirnie", could be on the loose in Fife.

There have been numerous reports of big cats in the Kingdom in recent years.

Now officers have had a plaster cast of a paw print verified by experts who believe it is of an 18-month-old exotic large cat.

Fife Police's wildlife crime officer, Mark Maylin, said it was most likely to be a print of a black leopard.

Mr Maylin said: "There had been several sightings at one time on the Balbirnie Estate near Glenrothes of a big cat so we went down and discovered this print.

I am resigned to the fact we are going to have to live with this big cat in the area
Mark Maylin
Fife Constabulary

"At the time there was a local man who said he had been walking his St Bernard dog in the area but I was convinced it had come from a big cat so I took a plaster cast of it to two experts who said immediately it was from an exotic cat.

"They couldn't be species-specific because there wasn't specific clarity in the heel pad but said judging by the size the animal was 18 months old and was the offspring of an animal released illegally in the 90s.

"I am resigned to the fact we are going to have to live with this big cat in the area. It hasn't hurt anyone in the past. I would urge people to refrain from shooting it because an injured animal is a very dangerous one."

Exciting news

Rob Martin, The Cat Survival Trust manager who verified the cast was that of a big cat, said it was "exciting news".

"It is definitely a big cat because there were no claw marks and the pad shapes are consistent with a cat's.

"It's exciting to think big cats are living wild in Scotland but they will eventually die off. It's most likely to be a leopard."

Print displayed by officer
Police sent the paw print off for analysis by experts

George Redpath, Fife's big cat researcher, said he was "delighted" it had finally been confirmed.

"I have always believed there are big cats in Fife after seeing black leopards on four different occasions.

"But it is great that finally we have the proof and that an expert has come forward to confirm it is the footprint of a big cat.

"Nobody should be unduly concerned because these cats have been here for years. they won't bother you if you don't bother them."




SEE ALSO:
Zoologist studies 'big cat' print
06 Oct 05 |  Scotland
South West 'is big cat hotspot'
20 Apr 04 |  Cornwall
Sheep painted to deter 'panther'
11 Dec 03 |  Scotland
Big cat concerns continue
17 Nov 03 |  Northern Ireland


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