See the Another Fife Big cat Sighting and Big cat spotted by journalist for additional background behind these photographs. See also Cupar Pug Marks for prints probably made by the same animal. Scottish Big Cats are indebted to Ralph Barnett for sharing these photos with us.
Before the night of June 16 2001, my attitude to the reality or otherwise of large, unidentified carnivores was one of healthy, professional scepticism.
As a journalist I have come across the ABC phenomenon on several occasions over the years - even interviewed witnesses and written about it - but never been wholly convinced one way or the other.
Driving home from Dundee to Cupar, Fife, at 11.30pm on the above night I came off the A92 at the Rathillet junction with no expectation of encountering anything more exotic than the odd roe deer, fox or tawny owl or the narrow back-road home.
On rounding a bend and coming out of a slight dip in the road I flicked my headlamps to full beam and did a text-book emergency stop when I saw what I initially took to be other car lights ahead, only they were the wrong colour (yellow/amber) and in the wrong place given the line of the road ahead.
This is a route I use virtually on a daily basis.
I could then see large and, at first, indistinct, dark mass on the road just yards in front of my car.
As I tried to work out what it was - all this in only a few seconds - what was clearly a very large dark cat raised its head to face the car and I realised the "lights" I had seen were its eyes reflected in my headlamps.
The cat, very dark but not jet black, then turned to it's right (my left) and in one fluid motion jumped out of my field of vision.
The animal was most definitely a cat and gave the impression of being extremely powerful and agile.
Local police were called by mobile 'phone and attended in significant numbers - certainly more than would normally be available for a disturbance in Cupar town centre at that time on a Saturday night.
This, I think, illustrates how seriously Fife Constabulary take the situation - although getting them to concede this and go beyond the official "inconclusive" public line is proving difficult.
The accompanying photographs of the remains of unfortunate roe deer I think speak for themselves but, sadly, Fife Constabulary didn't see fit to take possession for the carcass for further analysis, as they have done in the past.
Although I'm no forensic scientist I would challenge anyone to view these pictures and say that they can give a logical explanation of how a (previously)healthy roe buck could have ended up in such a state of dismemberment.
I know what did this, because I saw it with my own eyes, and anyone who tries to dismiss it as the work of a stray dog or a particularly nasty fox is, quite frankly, talking mince.
Whatever is roaming around North East Fife is, quite obviously, a potential danger to the public, although my opinion is that it is not an actual threat as it seems to shun or at least avoid human contact - much as the puma/cougar does in its native home range.
That does not, I believe, mean that the authorities should be allowed to get away with effectively pretending there's nothing there at all.
Bearing in mind that my sighting took place literally yards from a small rural primary school I think the police should at least concede there is a large predatory carnivore in the area and, without creating public panic, give measured and appropriate advice as to how any encounter should be dealt with.
The last thing I would want to see happen is for some child to be hurt or worse because they have met this remarkable creature and reacted in a manner that marks them down as "prey:eat" rather than "human: avoid".
The public outcry and lynch mob that would inevitably follow such an event is something that everyone, especially the police, should wish to avoid.
A. SIGNS OF ASPHYXIATION.
A1. Mouth open / tongue swollen.
A2. Face congested with blood / eyes bulging.
A3. Neck raked by teeth and claws.
B. SIGNS OF BEING DRAGGED.
B1 Bite or grip mark on back shoulder.
B2. Broken antler tip.
C. DAMAGE TO CARCASS.
C1. Split from breastbone to groin.
C2. All internal organs missing.
C3. Pelvis dislocated.
C4. Rear left leg stripped of flesh.
Something certainly had a taste for venison! I'm particularly impressed by the leg - stripped of flesh but still intact, I can't imagine a dog being so tidy. I've enlarged one section which shows injuries to the deer's throat. I'm sure that'll be of some interest.
There is some grass on top of the deer and inside the body cavity. I'm wondering if it had been hidden and the cat was moving it when it was seen.
George Markie, Scottish Big Cats
Excellent clear photos of the deceased Roe Deer.
The way it had been eaten reminded me very much of the badger, whose body (roadkill) I found at the edge of lane and removed to the side of a field... only to find it had been further removed to the middle of this biggish field and eaten in a similar style...
Shame the editor was so squeamish, but I suppose not everyone is used to looking at animal carcasses.
I was very interested to see the images of the deer carcass and hear Ralph recount his encounter with the presumed culprit. I have a few questions that I'd like Ralph to answer if he is able/willing to?
Was the deer found at the same time as the cat was encountered - this is not clear from the statement it seems you just saw the cat. When was the deer found and where in relation to the cat being seen?
I see you admit to not being a forensic scientist, Ralph the worlds best cat trackers are not forensic scientists they are just very observant and know what to look for, as a reporter you are a trained observer and your testimony is highly valid.
An enlarged image of the head/neck has been put on the Scottish big cat site this is still not really clear, can you describe in simple terms any injuries that were present on the neck/throat (how closely did you look)?
Besides photographing the deer did you look on the verge/ further into the sides of the road for any other sign/tracks? - evidence.
Was the deer's eye still present?
Did the carcass smell rancid or rotten?
What happened to the carcass?
From the images I have seen here, the amount/type of meat taken, the wound edges being so well defined, the prey item, the missing intestines, the chewed down ribs, the cleaness and almost clinical feeding activity etc there is little doubt that this is highly consistent with the feeding characteristics of a large cat.
John Murray, Scottish Big Cats
Cats do prefer the innards the same as the captive ones love organ meat. The clean bones around the rib-cage is precisely what we see when these big cats use their raspy tongues to remove the flesh.
Around the head/neck area there appears to be claw marks, indicating the cat holding while suffocating it. Unlike dogs, cats do not grab the throat and attempt to break the neck, they rely completely on suffocation by crushing the throat. Occasionally, this pressure is so great that the eyes are pushed from their sockets, which may or may not explain what we see in this photo.
Now somebody will probably come up with a video of a dog perpetrating this attack and my evaluation is out the window. I will say, this is the best example of a genuine cat kill I have seen so far, even though it is less than an expert opinion.
Ben Willis, Scottish Big Cats
We agree with other members of the group that the deer kill photo recently shown on this site offers what is probably the best evidence yet of a possible big cat kill in this country.
Bob & Lyn Engledow, Operation Big Cat!
To answer John's questions...
The cat was crouching at the carcass when I saw it, facing towards me, and my impression in hindsight is that it was probably dragging the deer across the road when I chanced upon it rather than actually eating it there.
The marks on the neck & throat visible in the enlargement were "grooves" - for want of a better word - through the deer's coat as if it had been held tightly then released, with no apparent punctures.
The area of disturbed skin on the shoulder/back area was roughly circular - about 4"-5" in diameter - with some loose tufts of hair adhering.
I examined the carcass quite closely - it was cold to the touch, not rigid (therefore post rigor mortis), and "ripe" without being in any way decomposed. No fly larvae were evident, suggesting it had been dead for certainly no more than 48 hours and probably less (the first police officer on the scene concurred with this view). Eyeballs were ruptured but still moist (do you REALLY need to know this!?).
The same officer asked his superiors if he should retain the carcass for forensic examination - he had "body-bags" in his vehicle - but was apparently advised not to bother. It was later tossed unceremoniously on to the grass verge where it no doubt remains unless it has been reclaimed by its "owner" or dispersed by scavengers.
Regarding tracks etc. I did find some in an adjacent field the following morning which I took photos of (awaiting development) and of a disturbed area of ground bearing marks of a struggle and deep impressions of what appeared to be roe deer hoofprints.
All had weathered beyond recognition by the time I got organised enough to get back with plaster-of-paris...sorry.
Also in a shallow roadside drainage ditch were small tufts of deer hair and fresh (i.e. not dried) blood.
Hope this is of interest and doesn't put anyone off their dinner!
I had not seen this photograph in it entirety until it was last
posted. The leg which had been stripped of flesh looks very
typical of a carcass which had been gnawed by a big cat with
cubs. It also seems like an enormous amount of meat to be taken
by one cat. Of course, they are known to cache their kills and
return later, but usually much debris will be seen on the body.
Is it possible there might have been some cubs lurking in the
bushes nearby ?
Ben Willis, Scottish Big Cats
This is from the Scottish Big Cats website guest book:
In March 1999 I saw what I thought to be a large black cat sunning itself in a field behind Foodiash just outside Cupar.A few minutes later I saw it slink along a hedgerow like it was stalking something.It's movements were definitely feline and looked to be around the same size as my German shepherd . a couple of months later my husband witnessed a similar cat walking along the railway line near Tarvit in Cupar.He was out walking the dog when he saw it. The cat wasn't bothered by the dog , it just glared at my husband and kept walking.He did say that it looked like it had just had a large meal or was pregnant.This all happened just before another sighting just outside Cupar at Middlefield.
The above sighting was over two years ago but it was quite close to Ralph's sighting.
Could it be that a pregnant female or one with cubs would move into more populated areas due to the increased chance of getting food? It might also explain why it's been seen during bad weather - hungry cubs to feed.
George Markie, Scottish Big Cats
Going back to Ralph's deer kill - from the amount of meat taken off that Roe Buck, I should think there were probably three cats feeding off it. Even they probably ended up with pretty full bellies. My dogs are all a good size, but three of them would have a job eating all that at one go!
As far as the deer kill, commonly neither the cougar or leopard will
make a habit of gorging their stomachs, preferring to remain
sleek and stealthy. The lion and tiger have less need to be elusive
so they are known to overfill on any given kill.
In the photographs, I am unable to form a scale as to how large the
deer was, so there might have been less eaten than I assumed and
only one single cat.
Ben Willis, Scottish Big Cats
I'd like to disscuss our Deer Kill and future possibilities that carcasses such as this could give us significant leads and possible DNA samples.Ive already
chatted to Mark and George about this subject, so here are my thoughts.
Unfortunately i was away at the time of the deer kill so i could not access the carcass which was so kindly photographed by Ralph along with the pug marks,but here are a few ideas for future reference.
Had I been here id like to have removed the carcass for closer examination ie measure wounds inflicted-Bites,cuts,scratches and possible swipe blow to deer on bringing it down.measurements to include distance between marks and also depth of wounds etc.Iam not averse to getting myself covered in blood and in this case"no guts" in the quest to prove the Cats existence.
I would also have liked to pull back the Fleece to examine the bare skin wounds as these possibly would have been very substantial in this case.
I am no Forensic Scientist by any means but did serve an apprenticeship as a Butcher many moons ago and would know what i was doing. Obviously I'd need help and I think my good friend George and myself will team up if the chance comes our way in future.
Sooner or later the Cats must leave some DNA,hair samples,possibly a loose tooth etc and if we look closely enough we may just find the evidence we all seek.Meantime any carcasses please keep them and get in touch with myself.
I hope this hasnt spoilt anyones Tea.
Mike Inglis, Scottish Big Cats
When I first saw these images, I was struck by how similar they are, in some ways, to shots I had taken of the remains of a rabbit that one of my wildcats had eaten, which I have attached.
The deer images are very reminiscent of how the wildcats leave a rabbit...lungs, heart, liver, kidneys removed first, then the meat and smaller bones, leaving the heavier bones, such as thigh and backbone, with the pelt licked back by a very rough tongue. The image I have attached is even covered in grass, due to it being partially buried by the wildcat. My wildcats quite often don't bother with the front legs, head and neck, for some reason, but probably would if they weren't so well fed.
Perhaps if a big cat had been responsible for this cadaver, it might have been dragging it across the road to bury somewhere else for another feed, and been scared off by a passing car. The rabbit in the attached image was eaten by a 14 lb. female wildcat, eating around 1.5 lb. of flesh in one sitting. If the deer had, say, a conservative 20 lbs. of meat and organs removed in one sitting, scaled up the cat might weigh around 187 lbs., which is a big cat, but quite feasible. A smaller cat might have to make several visits to eat so much meat.
It's easy to speculate and think up neat scenarios when images like these are shown, to make the theories fit in with the evidence...there may be a more simple explanation in the background somewhere. Even someone like Sir Peter Scott fell foul of this when the famous Loch Ness underwater images were first shown...he even gave Nessie a scientific name, and it did his otherwise fine reputation no good at all. The images were later found to be computer-enhanced to such a degree that they bore little resemblance to the original shot.
These images are so compelling, to me, and on a much larger scale so like the remains of my wildcats meals, that I have to say they are the best evidence I've seen yet of a large cat living wild in Scotland, and I for one hope it leads a quiet, peaceful and prosperous existence. Unfortunately, if the cats existence is known, it will inevitably be tracked down and exterminated... look at what happened to a virtually unknown small cat like the Kellas...shot examples turned up everywhere!
Allan Paul, Scottish Wildcat Website
There are some interesting pictures on your website particularly the deer carcase pictures.
As in any investigation one must ask certain questions and try to put the puzzle together using the given facts and not conjecture.
What appears to be some kind of blunt trauma on the head around the eye this may have been caused by some kind of collision with a vehicle as the carcases is in the vicinity of a road, If this is the case it could stand to reason that the marks on the neck could have been caused by the road accident or a badger or fox trying to move the carcase to the verge side.
Was this the original kill site or was the animal moved to a new location where the pictures were taken ? If this was not the original site of the kill then some valuable clues╩are missing as to the species that killed the deer. The puma and leopard and some of the other cat species will cache kills and in doing so leave twigs grass and debris on the kill there is no sign of this in the pictures.
It is difficult from the pictures but the area of the stomach that as been eaten is aged somewhat from the rest of the carcase notice the dark areas here, whilst the hind quarters are still rather pinkie looking , this could indicate that the carcase was cached for a few days and is what you would find with pumas or that feeding took place by another animal afterwards.╩The person who took the photos and they are good should have skinned the neck, throat╩and shoulder region to find puncture wounds and to determine the full extent of those marks in that area, these are the most likely places to find cat kill evidence on a carcase.
Whilst the possibility of a large cat can not be ruled out and some of the traits in the pictures do tie in nicely with a cat kill, pieces of the puzzle are missing and we are seeing only part of a scene that was played out in Scotland which may lead to the wrong conclusion
Miss Valerie King
This appears without question to be a large cat kill, for all of the reasons posted earlier.
Here in East Tennessee I spent over six hours in the woods after a black panther sighting was╩reported to the local police department. The witness told me the critter had been seen on his property numerous times, with little effort I found trees marked apparently from the cat. Going further into the thick underbrush, following what appeared to be an animals trail soon revealed a carcass of a young white-tailed deer similar in condition to the one photographed here.
Yes, it seems this evidence indeed points to large wild cats╩yet to be discovered or accepted by many.
Great report! My thanks,
Jerry D. Coleman, author of "Strange Highways" a Guidebook to American Mysteries and The Unexplained by Whitechapel Press, USA.
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