Report from Chris Smith
Police have warned people to be on their guard and not approach the creature, which was seen in a field in Limeylands Crescent, Ormiston.
Elaine Ainslie, 47, was walking her dog, Gemma, in the field near her home when she came face-to-face with the panther-like creature at around 8.30 pm. three weeks ago.
Trying not to look into the animal's eyes, terrified Ms Ainslie picked up her pet, stood still and then backed away until the cat was out of sight. Talking of her ordeal, Ms Ainslie She said: "I was shaking like a leaf when I got home and I had been sick before I even got to the house. I was so frightened."
"I asked around the village but no-one else seemed to have seen this animal,Ó she said according to reports. Ms Ainslie spotted the creature again in a field near George Crescent a few days after the first sighting three weeks ago. "This creature was nothing like I had ever seen before," she said.
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it again."
The animal was described as sleek and black, with some white showing through its coat. It had short hair with a long tail and was powerful and muscular-looking.
Sightings of suspected big cats have proliferated in Britain over the last 20 years, amid claims species such as pumas are breeding in the wild after being released fromprivate zoos and animal collections.
Reports are frequent in the Dartmoor area but have also come from Surrey, Cornwall, Gloucestershire and North Yorkshire.
However, animal experts at Edinburgh Zoo said the Ormiston animal may have been an exceptionally large feral cat.
A spokeswoman was quoted as saying: "Given that the animal was seen on the farmland and on ground which was fairly flat, it could well have been a feral cat, whichcan often grow to quite a large size."
The woman first spotted the cat-like beast on June 18.
A Lothian and Borders police spokesman said: "Ms Ainslie phoned us on June 19.
"The previous night, she saw a large cat-like animal."
"As yet, we have had no further reports of any sightings but we would warn people to be on their guard and not to approach this animal."
Some 15 years ago, a large panther-like creature was reported to have been seen in the Lammermuir Hills where large paw prints were found. Despite searches by police and gamekeepers, no trace of the creature was found.
Edinburgh Evening News, July 20 th 2001
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