Expert claims beast is big cat |Ed Malone||02/09/06 at 08:28:27|obadiah|xx|0||

07 February 2006 Latest News  

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Expert claims beast is big cat

By Charlene Kelly

THE THEORY that the Beast of Balbirnie is a colossal canine rather
than a feral feline is barking up the wrong tree, a big cat expert
has claimed.

Markinch man Mark Proctor claimed to have "solved" the mystery and
exposed the so-called "beast" as his sister's St Bernard.

He backed up his claims by stating that the dog had been walked in
Balbirnie Woods around the same time the paw print had been
discovered and that the cast measurement of 10 cm by 9 cm was exactly
the same as Bernard the dog's paws.

A cast of the paw print was sent for analysis to the Big Cat Survival
Trust in Hertfordshire and head of cats, Rob Martin, yesterday told
The Courier that despite Mr Proctor's claims there was no argument
that the print belonged to a cat.

He said, "All I want to do here is put things in perspective and to
encourage people to listen to scientific facts instead of opinions
from people who, with the best intentions, do not factually have any
experience with wild cats at all.

"It is of my opinion and experience that the cast was of a juvenile
large cat species and not of a dog of any kind. The difference
between a dog and a cat pug mark is like comparing a car to a lorry—
obvious if you have genuine experience with cats."

Mr Martin has a wealth of experience of wild cats, having researched
and worked with 40 species including lynx, pumas and leopards and has
worked in Asia, researching leopards. He also has a PhD in The
Natural Ecology In The Wild and Captive Management Of The Leopard.

Speaking of the cast from Balbirnie Woods he said, "The toe pads were
devoid of any claw marks except one small indentation of which
represented a claw extended out to grip on the ground.

"This can be easily explained by the fact that the cast was taken on
a bank where some minor grip had been administered by the owner.

"A St Bernard dog has permanently fixed claws where all would be
visible as a print on the ground without exception.

"Only one minor claw indentation was visible—clearly a cat—unless the
dog in question had no claws at all but this is not the case as I
have seen pictures of the St Bernard's paws.

"The main planter pad of the cast, though not clearly shaped is
consistent of a large cat due to its shape—totally different to the
planter of a St Bernard, as is the singular formation of each toe

Fife Constabulary wildlife and environmental crime officer Constable
Mark Maylin said, "We are grateful to Rob and the Big Cat Survival
Trust who have confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that the paw
print belongs to a large cat, possibly that of an 18-month-old
leopard, which would suggest there is more than one in the area as
people have been reporting sightings for years now.

"We're satisfied that the cat or cats do not present a risk to the
public at the moment as they seem to be happy living off things like
rabbits in the woods."