Puma could really exist

PUBLISHED: 02:01 09 April 2008 | UPDATED: 21:41 15 June 2010

Your article a couple of weeks ago about Axminster tattooist Chris Williams' sighting of what he believed to be a puma-like cat in early March prompted me to recall an incident sometime around April last year. My wife and I were walking through the fields

Your article a couple of weeks ago about Axminster tattooist Chris Williams' sighting of what he believed to be a puma-like cat in early March prompted me to recall an incident sometime around April last year.My wife and I were walking through the fields from Beer to Branscombe. Along our path we encountered a flock of sheep with their lambs, most of which seemed to be six to eight weeks old. Not wishing to cause them unnecessary disturbance, we took a small detour from the main route and walked by the pig-wire fence on the seaward side of the field. The fence also formed a boundary with dense scrub, top of the Hooken under-cliff.We had walked about 25 to 30 metres along this section when I noticed something unusual on the cliff side of the fence. Further investigation revealed a head and part spine of a lamb. From the size of the skull, I judged the unfortunate animal to be of a similar age as the others in the field and the condition of the remains suggested the lamb had been recently killed - within the past couple of days. After taking in the gruesome sight, my thoughts began to focus on what sort of animal might have killed it. The obvious choices would have been a fox or a dog but, given the size of the dead animal and the place where it was found, I concluded it would have required something much more powerful than your average fox or family dog to bring down a sizeable lamb and have the stamina to drag it under the pig-wire fence and into the undergrowth.Like a lot of people, I have been sceptical about reports of big cats living wild in the West Country. Since discovering the lamb carcass, however, my view has changed and I keep an open mind on the matter. There are plenty of places in this region for a predator, like a puma, to conceal itself and only when it makes a foray out into a more open area, like the one described by Mr Williams, might such an animal be seen.Paul StevensonSt George's Hill Lyme Regis

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