New suspect in savage Killings|Richard_F||04/22/05 at 02:45:06|richard_f|xx|0||New suspect in savage Killings

Apr 17 2005

By Phil Doherty

One of the most ferocious animals in the world could be at large in the North, a wildlife expert has warned.

Eddie Bell, an animal liaison officer with Durham police, believes a wolverine could be responsible for a spate of savage attacks on lambs.

Farmer Andrew Spence, of Iverston in County Durham, has lost a dozen lambs in as many days to a mystery predator.

The lambs were all savaged and some had their heads ripped off.

At first Mr Spence thought they could have been victims of the so- called Durham Puma said to roam the region.


Mr Bell, however, reckons the killing method used suggests it was not a big cat that was responsible but a wolverine, a creature feared by hunters the world over.

The police sergeant said: "We have had big cat sightings at Iverston, but cats never kill two prey at the same time and pumas certainly don't leave their prey just lying there. They always carry them off.

"We have evidence that wolverines are loose in this country. A few years ago the National Farmers' Union was advising farmers in Wales that there were at least two wolverines in the area and about five years ago Northumbria Police came to me about some dead lambs with big bitemarks on top of their heads.

"We reckon it could have been a wolverine.

"Wolverines are fearless and ferocious and will drive a grizzly bear off a kill. I'd advise anyone coming across one of these creatures to back off and get away as soon as possible."

Wolverines, a member of the stoat family, are native to North America.

They grow to about 3ft or 4ft long and are stocky and powerfully built.They are so ferocious that animals such as bears, pumas and wolves avoid fighting them.

Other animals Mr Bell believes could have been responsible for the attacks on Mr Spence's lambs include a large rogue dog or even a boar. Mr Spence said: "We have been putting our lambs out to grass for the last 10 days and three of those we've lost have been found with their heads torn off.

"These were big strong lambs, so it's not a fox or badger doing this. Whatever did it was powerful enough to crack their rib cages as if they were twigs. Also, the bite-marks are much bigger than you find with badger or fox attacks.

"My stockman, who has many years' experience, is completely baffled at the way these lambs have been killed. He says he hasn't seen anything like it.

"My children usually play around the farmbut I've told them not to go too far because I'm worried."