WAITING FOR BEAST WITH SHOTGUN |jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|02/02/04 at 19:43:54|jon_downes|xx|0||WAITING FOR BEAST WITH SHOTGUN

18:00 - 15 January 2004

A Cranmore man fears that there may be a beast of Stoke St Michael on the prowl. Farmer Kenneth Chislett keeps sheep and cattle on pasture near Stoke St Michael and has now lost four ewes to predatory animal attacks and, even more worrying, a six-month-old calf.

The attacks on the ewes, two of them in lamb, occurred over the last two weeks, the latest discovered on Tuesday morning.

Even more mystifying was the death of a six-month-old Aberdeen Angus calf last week, weighing in at more than twice the weight of an average adult human.

Mr Chislett took the carcasses to the Mendip Farmers' Hunt kennels at Priddy for disposal and the animal's injuries were inspected more closely once the skins had been removed.

He said: "There were large puncture marks around the throat and their heads or stomachs were eaten." He said that the hunt staff believed that a big cat or large dog had carried out the attacks on his livestock owing to the injuries and size of the animals involved.

"There have been rumours of a big cat in the Mells area" said Mr Chislett.

"The land where my animals are kept is quite close to Cranmore Tower - it would be an ideal spot for an animal like a big cat to live with the woods up there.

"I would have liked to get the local hunt in, but they are not allowed up there, so we have left the last sheep carcass that was killed on Monday night and hope that whatever it was will come back, and we will be waiting with shotguns." Mr Chislett has already tried to trap the predator but has not been successful, and has been in touch with local police prior to hunting the animal.

Any dog that is found worrying Mr Chislett's livestock can legally be shot, so dog owners in the area are warned to keep them under control.

In addition to the deaths of the ewes and calf, Mr Chislett had to have a ram destroyed recently which, it was susequently discovered, had a split in its liver caused, it was believed, by a hard impact to its body.

Mr Chislett said his livestock seem shaken up following the mystery predator's attacks and some animals that were fairly friendly before have become nervous and almost aggressive.