Scotland: Renfrewshire leopard?|graham_inglis|space@eurobell.co.uk|11/25/03 at 16:26:03|graham_inglis|xx|0|217.44.226.23|Scotland Today, Renfrewshire / Scotland - Nov 13.03
Posted Nov 13.03
Renfrewshire villagers on look out for mystery big cat

Residents of a Renfrewshire village are claiming that a black leopard has been spotted in the neighbourhood. Out walking near the primary school early on Monday morning, a resident of Lochwinnoch could not believe his eyes. A five feet long, black cat like creature stood before him . It was in nearby woods that the mysterious creature was last spotted, locals say it ran in here and vanished without a trace.

Experts say it could be a black leopard, in the past year there have been more than 200 sightings in Scotland. Police are keeping an open mind, even using their helicopter to search the surrounding areas. Superintendent Daniel Dyer from Strathclyde Police said: "We are trained to deal with anything and everything, if you are suggesting we require a serious cat squad its possibly something for the future."

Letters have also been sent home to parents of schoolchildren as precaution, a move which seems to have caused more excitement than concern. One local said: "My daughter keeps an eye out, after she heard it she's always looking out of the window to see if its in our woods." The beast is said to have left scratches and bite marks on cars. Reports say the creature is much larger than domestic cats, and is unlikely to come through a cat flap near you.
|| Re: Scotland: Renfrewshire leopard?|graham_inglis|space@eurobell.co.uk|11/25/03 at 16:33:22|graham_inglis|xx|0|217.44.226.23|BIG cats roaming Renfrewshire could have been brought into Scotland to keep as pets, a leading expert said last night.

Mark Fraser runs the Scottish Big Cat Society and has been probing sightings of creatures including pumas, lynx and black leopards, for the last 15 years.

He explained the beasts weren't native to Scotland and had instead been brought into the country by people who wanted to keep them as pets. But he said that when the animals got too big to handle, their owners would often just release them into the wild. And he told how up until the 1970s it was perfectly legal for anyone to keep exotic creatures such as leopards as pets.

Mr Fraser said: "In the 1970s you could buy any exotic animal you wanted and people would get animals such as black leopards, lynx, pumas and they would keep them as pets. "You would see people walking them down the street. "But in 1974 the Wildlife Animals Act was brought in which barred people from keeping them and as a result of that a lot of people simply let their animals loose into the wild.

"Those animals that were released would have died out by now, but there is a possibility they could have bred and that could account for some of the reported sightings we get."

Throughout Britain, there is at least one reported sighting of a big cat every day and in Scotland alone, so far this year, there have been more than 200 sightings.

Mr Fraser continued: "There are no big cats that are native to Scotland, the only thing you get here naturally are wild cats, which are slightly bigger than domestic cats.

"Although you can't buy big cats here people can get them abroad in places like Ireland and France. I've been told you can buy a lynx kitten for as little as 50. You do get people buying them to keep as pets and then when they get bigger and harder to handle rather than having the animal put down, they simply let them loose somewhere.

"There is a trend for drug dealers to buy these animals as an alternative to Rottweilers. People are definitely buying them, that's the only way they could be getting into the country."
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