Big cat fear: Mystery predator kills foal|Richard_F||09/21/07 at 14:46:36|richard_f|xx|0||Big cat fear: Mystery predator kills foal
Danny Lannen

THIS is the skeleton of a horse foal which was running and suckling its mum
just eight hours earlier.

Discovery of the bones in a Geelong district paddock the morning after the
kill has horrified the horse's owner and dramatically sharpened speculation
that big cats are alive and feeding on bush fringes.

Farmers accustomed to finding killed sheep in paddocks are disturbed by the
turn to a new prey and by the almost total consumption of the foal's flesh,
skin and organs.

They have all but discounted wild dogs as the predators because they
habitually leave mess and they believe deep gouge marks on the horse's leg
bones are the work of powerful feline teeth or claws.

The Geelong Advertiser is not naming the location of the kill to protect
district people from invasion by others hoping to see or kill a big cat.

Barwon Equine Hospital partner Dr Kylie Splatt inspected the bones in the
paddock soon after they were discovered last week.

"It was certainly a very clean kill," Dr Splatt said.

"All the muscle and soft tissue went and bones were intact, everything else
was stripped away.

"One of the vets from the zoo said they had seen something like that with a
pack of dogs but then again if it was a pack of dogs would the mare have
scared them away?

"Usually, very protective mares can send off most predators.

"This is strange and a concern. Certainly if it was alive and taken like
that, this is a very clever predator."

Dr Splatt said the foal's neck bones appeared intact but she was unable to
tell if the spinal cord had been damaged.

She urged stock owners to be vigilant.

"We always advise people if mares are foaling down to check them regularly
and have them somewhere safe," Dr Splatt said.

"But I'm not saying that this foal was not somewhere safe."

She said district farmers had spoken of losing stock to big cats.

"Certainly it's a concern but I guess reports of it . . . until you see the
actual creature and until it is proven, we'll remain open minded."

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