Report from Chris Smith
Experts remained divided last night over the origins of a mystery big cat found dead in the North-east.
Theories included that it had escaped from a wildlife park, or that it was a bobcat or a wildcat.
One local man said it was the offspring of a bigger puma-like cat which is still roaming the Boddam countryside.
Buchan farmer Bill Duffus came across the 3ft-long cat's body while out shooting rabbits last week, but part of its head was missing.
Paul Paterson, of Glasgow Zoo, said yesterday it was very difficult to say exactly what the cat was.
"It seems like it has been part of a private collection, perhaps from a local wildlife park.
"A European wildcat would be about calf-height and would be about twice the size of a normal cat.
"It would be easier to tell if the head had been intact because they have distinctive ears.
"The other thing it could be is a bobcat, which is like a puma, very hairy, and almost indistinguishable from our wildcats."
Ian Turner, deputy warden at Longleat Safari Park, near Bath, also found it hard to pinpoint the breed.
He said: "It's a unique find and nothing springs to mind with it.
"The tail and its coat instantly rule it out from being a lynx although it is a similar size.
"It seems very much like a Scottish wildcat, which are similar to domestic cats but bigger. But this is big even for them."
The speculation raged on in the village near to where it was found. One local said it was the young of a colony he had discovered.
Terry Wright, of Rocksley Drive, Boddam, says he had regularly seen a cat the same size as his German shepherd dog while out walking beside the village.
He said: "The cat which was found could possibly be one of its young. I have seen it with two younger ones before but I have never been very close to get a proper look at them."
Mr Wright says the cat he has seen weighs around 90lb, is 5ft long, without a bushy tail, and he thinks it is jet black but has never seen it in daylight.
The creature would feed off rabbits in the area, he believes.
He said: "Its paw print would be about the same size as a closed fist."
His dog Tara has become friendly with the puma-like cat he said. "The first time I saw it I just stayed still and Tara chased it away but now they are quite friendly."
Mr Wright says he would not like to reveal the whereabouts of the cats because he fears they would become a magnet for hunters. He said: "I am very much for animal welfare and these creatures don't cause anyone any harm.
"If I said where I saw them then there would be someone who would want to be a hero and say they had captured the Beast of Buchan."
The discovery of this cat-like creature is the first time any carcase has been found to substantiate their existence.
Press & Journal 2 nd May 2002
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