Report from Chris Smith
A Beauly man came face to face with a cat "the size of a bloodhound" while walking his parents dog recently. And John Towner's mother, who said that her son knew a lot about nature, is insistent that he had sighted what is known in the Highlands as the Big Cat.
Mr Towner, of Carnyx, was walking the family's Jack Russell terriers in Rheindown Forest when he saw a large brown creature sitting on the path in front of him. As he moved to approach it, the animal started and disappeared into the dense undergrowth, leaving no trace in the clearing.
He relayed the incident to his mother, Christina Palmer, who decided she had to alert local crofters to the sighting. Mrs Palmer said: "John thought it was like a puma or a mountain lion, something like that.
The two dogs, Tigger and Toby, did not react to the animal, as John approached it from upwind to try and get close. "I contacted the police, and I want to warn local farmers about this, as we have been losing more livestock than usual recently - I'm beginning to think this could be the cause."
The Palmers have goats, chickens and duck, and Mrs Palmer is worried that with winter here the cat will be desperate for food and come down to the surrounding crofts to find animals. Mrs Palmer also said that the sighting made sense of a few mysterious incidents at their croft over the last year. She said: "Last winter, there were large paw markings in the snow round the house - we just assumed it was a badger, but the marks were a bit big. "We've also had a lot of strange clawmarks and scratches on the chicken coops and doors. Maybe this explains it all."
There have been numerous sightings of similar big cats in the Highland region over the years, but this is the first official report from the Beauly area. Even this year, three different people have reported seeing a large, puma like animal in Moray.
Nessie's Loch Ness Times, 22 nd December 2001
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