Report from Nick Wirsten
AN EARLY morning dog walk left Neil McLauchlan stunned ... when he came face-to-face with a big cat.
Neil, pictured, was no more than 30 yards from the beast when it cleared a three-foot barbed wire fence and disappeared down a wooded banking.
His last sighting was of it racing into the undergrowth alongside the River Nith at Thornhill.
About 36 hours later two women driving through Auldgirth were shocked when a large "queer looking" cat loped across the road in front of them.
The two sightings follow a number of reports of a big cat being seen by golfers at Thornhill's course.
While Neil, who watched the animal running, was unsure what it might be, one of the ladies involved in the Auldgirth sighting, Mrs Ellen Renicks, is pretty certain it was a Lynx.
Less than a month ago, deputy rector at St Joseph's College in Dumfries, Bob McGoran, spotted a cat that looked like a North American Lynx near Johnstonebridge.
Neil was walking his dogs Kizzy and Preston, who belongs to a friends, around 7.30 on Saturday morning.
He was on a wooded path between Moat Brae and Nithbank, above the low road.
"When I got on to the path the dogs were running around sniffing all the bushes," he said.
"I saw a cat in the field and didn't think any more about it.
"When I got further along I saw the thing again. It was as big as a Collie dog and was running faster than a greyhound.
"It was heading in my direction but not directly towards me.
"It must have seen me or the dogs. I don't know who was more shocked, me or the cat."
The beast leapt over a barbed wire fence and landed on the path.
Preston took off after the animal which disappeared around the corner.
"I just saw Preston going over the bank," said Neil. "I called the dog back and went down. I could just see it in the field across the road. It disappeared into the woods alongside the Nith heading upstream."
Neil, who lives in Kinnell Street, didn't think it was like a Lynx.
He described the cat as dark grey with only a short tail.
Mrs Renicks. from Burnbrae, was driving to Dumfries around 1.30pm on Monday with Mrs Irela Hamilton from Carronbridge.
They had just crossed the bridge at Auldgirth when they spotted the "dark grey" animal.
"It came out of the woods on the side of the river about 200 yards in front of us, near the cottages," Mrs Renicks said.
"It wasn't running but it wasn't going slow either. It crossed the road and went into the bushes.
"It was a funny shape. It definitely had a cat's head."
Mrs Hamilton added: "It was queer looking. Its legs seemed too long for its body."
Sergeant Ian Donaldson at Dumfries said police would like to hear of sightings.
He added: "These are elusive creatures. People should know that they will run away.
"However, our advice is not to try and corner them or get involved in a confrontation."
Police are keen to get hard evidence of the animals.
"We are not saying we do not believe the sightings," the sergeant added.
"But we have never had any hard evidence. And we have never had any reports from gamekeepers, who are out and about all the time."
Dumfries & Galloway Standard, 28 th July 2003
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