Report from Chris Smith
The carcass of a sheep has been found in a field at Ardersier, prompting warnings that a big cat may be roaming the area.
A day earlier an animal, thought to be a puma or panther, was seen close by.
Yesterday John Cathcart, a former detective with Northern Constabulary who has researched big cat reports in the North for the past 20 years, said. "It was a particularly good sighting from only a few feet away, and in daylight, and the witness is positive it was a puma.
"He owns dogs that weigh 40-kilos and he estimated this thing was heavier than his dogs. The next day a dead sheep was found torn to bits in the same area."
But Mr Cathcart said that despite a convincing list of sightings, the general public remain unconvinced that there are killer cats roaming round their homes.
He said: "Although you get pockets of belief, the big cat thing has been Loch Ness-monsterised. But I am positive there are a number of big cats roaming the Highlands and even going down as far as Argyll and east into Aberdeenshire.
"My personal view is that there is a breeding population. I have been told of one sighting at Daviot south of Inverness of a lioness and three cubs. The chap who made the sighting was convinced it was a lion, but I contend it was a puma which has a similar outline to that of a female lion."
However, the National Farmers Union is taking the big cat theory with a pinch of salt.
Spokeswoman Beverly Wilson said: "I would say that dogs and foxes are the prime suspects. Nine times out of 10 a sheep kill will be down to dogs."
Press & Journal, 3 rd May 2000
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