Report from George Markie
"Police yesterday warned people to stay away from a mystery big cat spotted in Ayrshire.
Officers were called to a house in Ardrossan around 3.20am, after reports of unusual noises.
They were stunned to find themselves facing a dark-coated animal, about 3ft tall with yellow eyes. It fled into the undergrowth.
Residents were warned not to approach the animal - and to be on the lookout.
A police spokesman said: "Members of the public are asked to be vigilant and any sightings of the animal should be reported to the police. The animal should not be approached."
Descriptions of the animal given by police point to it possibly being puma-like.
The sighting is not the first in the area in recent times, and there are fears that the beast could be a danger to the public.
Earlier this year, Tory MSP Phil Gallie wrote to Justice Minister Jim Wallace on behalf of a constituent concerned about big cat sightings in Ayrshire.
Five creatures were seen over a few weeks in Galston, Fenwick and Stewarton in East Ayrshire, and Craigie in South Ayrshire, in May.
The Ardrossan incident follows the reported sighting of a "big cat" in a residential area of Aberdeen at the weekend.
A man claimed to have seen a big cat the size of a dog crossing the North Deeside road near Northcote Road on Sunday evening. The man said the "cat" was about the size of a dalmatian but was unable to give details about the creature's colour and did not want to be named.
Police had received no reports of any sightings on Monday, but big cat expert Phil Crosby says it is not unknown for the beasts to venture into more built up areas.
However, he said the sighting seemed very close to the city to have been a big cat.
"We have had sightings around Peterculter and there was a report from the Milltimber area, which I was always dubious about, but around Northcote Road is a bit built up," said Mr Crosby, a spokesman for the Scottish Big Cats Database.
Mr Crosby did say that a big cat will prey on domestic pets such as dogs and cats in urban areas, as has been shown in America, but is more likely to stick to the outskirts of a town and rural areas.
There have also been numerous big cat sightings in Aberdeenshire over the past 10 years.
A sleek, black cat-like creature, the size of a labrador, was also seen prowling the countryside in Aberdeenshire, on several occasions in the mid- 1990s.
There were so many reports of sightings and of slaughtered sheep that it was given a name, the Beast of Bennachie, after the hill where it was spotted.
Last May, a big cat was spotted prowling on open land near Torphins, followed by sightings the same week on the outskirts of Aberdeen. The following month, an engineer working in woods near Huntly, spotted a large, puma-like animal.
The issue was raised in the House of Commons in 1997, when Alex Salmond mentioned attacks on farm animals in his Buchan constituency. Elsewhere, mountain rescue teams have reported seeing large cat tracks.
A puma was caught at Cannich, near Inverness, in 1980."
Press & Journal, 24 th December 2002
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