'Big cat' probe after sheep death in Pembrokeshire

Police are examining photographs of a large paw print found on one farm

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There are fears a big cat may be behind a series of attacks on livestock near a village in Pembrokeshire.

Police and council officials are looking into the 'unusual death' of a lamb that appears to have been killed by another animal but not a dog or fox.

Farmers in Princes Gate say there have been sightings of a big cat in the area which they say is about 4ft (1.2m) long with a curved thick tail.

A paw print found near the latest dead animal is being analysed.

Farmer Malcolm MacPhee said he found one of his best Suffolk pedigree ewes torn to shreds.

"It's a huge worry for all the farmers in area," he told The Daily Telegraph.

Start Quote

At this stage the dead animal appears to have been attacked by another animal but its injuries do not appear to be consistent with an attack by a fox or a dog.”

End Quote Spokesman Dyfed-Powys Police

"I couldn't believe it when I saw what had happened... the beast had ripped off one of its shoulders and there were huge claw marks all the way along its body.

"Experts have now pointed out to us it was a clean kill and that its neck was broken first, which is not something a fox, dog or any other predator would do."

Dairy farmer John Mathias said he found one of his calves dead with similar injuries and said he had seen the big cat on several occasions.

"I could see its green eyes, there was no mistaking it for another animal," he added.

"It looked like pictures I've seen of panthers."

Pembrokeshire council said one of its senior animal health officers had visited Great Redford Farm near Narberth on 18 November and examined a carcass.

Photographs have been sent to a unit of the Welsh Assembly Government in Aberystwyth for further investigation.

Sightings

A spokesman for Dyfed-Powys Police said: "We have received a call from a member of the public reporting the unusual death of a lamb.

"At this stage the dead animal appears to have been attacked by another animal but its injuries do not appear to be consistent with an attack by a fox or a dog."

During the last decade there have been hundreds of reported sightings of big cats across Wales - many in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire close to the latest incident.

But there has never been conclusive proof there are big cats roaming wild in the countryside.

A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly Government said: "We have received reports of sightings of big cats in the Narberth area of Pembrokeshire, together with alleged attacks on sheep.

'Footprints'

"We take all sightings seriously and we work closely with the four Welsh police forces as well as the RSPCA and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency - which provides veterinary advice on the cause of livestock deaths.

"Where there is a suspicion that an animal was attacked by a non-native animal we consider evidence including post mortems, video footage, photographs and casts of footprints.

"To date, officials have not discovered any hard evidence proving the existence of big cats in the Welsh countryside. Officials will continue to investigate animal deaths where appropriate, carrying out field visits and collecting carcases for post mortem at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency."

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