Report from Chris Smith
A big cat is thought to be behind the slaughter of a lamb at a North- East farm, which has left livestock experts mystified. Huntly farmer James King was horrified when he found one of his flock of 400 skinned and stripped to the bone, during a regular check of his fields A handful of other farmers around the North-East have experienced similar slaughters on their land, each one apparently by a large feline creature.
Experts at the Scottish Agricultural College's veterinary inquiry centre in Aberdeen said the attack was consistent with that of previous incidents blamed on 'big cats'.
Mr. King, who was raised at the Conland Farm where the attack happened, and his wife Karen, said the discovery shocked them. "We cannot even begin to guess what killed the lamb, but it was a very systematic killing," said Mrs. King. "When James found the lamb, its fleece had almost completely been removed from the carcase - but it had not been shredded. You could have used it as a sheepskin rug, it had been almost perfectly peeled from the carcase, and it was still partially attached. And the meat had been stripped expertly from the bone - it did not look like the work of dogs or foxes."
"We don't even know if it was maybe even a prank by humans - but if a person had done that, they would have needed to have been an excellant butcher with a very sharp knife."
Mrs. King said in his years growing up and working on the farm, her husband had not seen anything like this before. And an Edinburgh woman walking in the hills above Braemar believes she may have spotted a large, black cat just a day before the slaying at Huntly.
Karen Livingstone was living with her husband Mike and two friends, accompanied by their French hound Bree. She said: "Our dog had been running about chasing rabbits playfully, but became spooked by something. Normally she isn't put off by any kinds of wildlife, but whatever this was, she definitely did not like."
"At one point we stopped, and Bree started barking quite loudly again, and had her tail between her legs as if she was frightened, I turned my head and thats when I saw something, about the same size as a medium-weight dog, with dark skin and strong legs, but no tail." "Bree ran off chasing it, and she disappeared into the woods. It took us about an hour to find her and there was no sign of the creature."
David Strachan helped carry out the examination of the Huntly lamb at the Scottish Agricultural College Centre. "This is quite similar to a lamb which was destroyed at a farm near Huntly around five years ago," he said. "And it is consistent with the killings which have been attributed to a big cat or similar animal."
"But there is no saying that, if already dead or perhaps unwell, the sheep may not have been killed by one or more foxes, or another large animal." A police spokesman at Huntly said: "We have to keep an open mind about incidents like these, but would warn people in the Huntly area to be on their guard if they see any unfamiliar creatures. Anyone who has maybe seen a big cat, should get in contact with us, on (01466) 792246.Sightings of big cats have been reported across the UK in recent years, with several happening in the North-east. These include the 'Beast of Buchan', which has apparently carried out attacks at several farms. One Peterhead farmer claimed the beast was responsible for the death of one of his animals last November.
The Press & Journal: January 11 th 2001
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