Report from Mike Inglis
POLICE ARE advising countryside ramblers to be on their guard following the latest sighting of a large black cat-like creature which was spotted prowling in woods near a popular Fife picnic spot yesterday morning.
Markinch man Alistair Campbell was walking his two deer hounds in a remote part of Heatherall Woods, near Ladybank, when the mysterious black beast apparently crossed the forest track around 50 yards in front of him.
Stopping dead in his tracks more through surprise than terror, he explained how the black cat slinked out of the bushes and seemed oblivious to his presence.
He said it moved just like a domestic cat but was more like the size of a black labrador.
"I never felt as if I was in any danger or felt threatened-I was just rather startled to see it," Mr Campbell told The Courier just hours after the incident at 9.30 am.
"But I reckon it must have got more of a fright than me because my two dogs spotted it and they bolted after it before I could stop them. They disappeared into the undergrowth and returned empty handed a few minutes later. Who knows where the cat went from there."
Mr Campbell regularly walks his dogs in the area and reckons he has caught glimpses of a cat-like creature before. However, this is the first time he has made what he reckons to be a positive identification.
Yesterday news of the latest sighting was greeted with great interest by Constable George Redpath of Cupar police station. He has been recording details of similar incidents in north-east Fife since November 1995.
Sporadic sightings have been fairly well geographically spread in the district-suggesting that there might he more than one wild cat on the prowl. But on the whole, descriptions of the animal(s) have been broadly similar.
Testimonies range from that of the three East Neuk workmen who reckon they came within inches of death in summer 1997 after apparently stumbling across a large puma-like creature on the outskirts of Kilrenny to reports of the children in the sleepy north Fife village of Letham who hid behind a wall as a large cat prowled up the lane just yards from their school last September.
There have also been sightings over the years around St Andrews and Cupar - a predator being blamed for the death of several sheep at Blebo Craigs - while as recently as last weekend a large black cat was said to have been spotted behind the quarry at Lucklaw Hill, Balmullo.
Several golfers also claim to have spotted a similar creature roaming near the Duke's Course at St Andrews earlier this week.
Police continue to treat all reported sightings very seriously but are still looking for conclusive evidence which will prove with doubt the identity of the elusive animal seen in Fife
Wildlife experts have suggested that large predatory cats might living all over Britain, but again there is no positive proof.
Yesterday a Glenrothes-based Fife Constabulary spokesman confirmed that the Ladybank sighting had not been officially reported to the police.
However, while people should not be unduly worried, he said that from a public safety standpoint would be wise not to provoke the cat if spotted.
He said, "Our advice to anyone who does encounter an animal which they cannot give a positive ID would be to not approach the creature but to record as detailed description as possible and relay this information to the police soon as possible."
Any evidence or photographs would be welcomed by PC George Redpath at Cupar police station.
Dundee Courier and Advertiser, April 17, 1999
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