Thursday 23 November 2017 07:07:36 AM

Farmers Say Big Cat Is Killing Sheep In The Dromara Uplands
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MYSTERIES abound the planet from the Lough Ness Monster, Yeti, Bigfoot and other cryto-zoological animals… but could we have a creature stalking the upper farmlands around the Dromara Hills providing us with yet another mystery?

Following recent reports, police in the Hillsborough and Dromara areas are investigating a number of animal attacks on sheep along with some so-called ‘big cat’ sightings.

Is there a community of big cats or even one big cat in the hills around Dromara and Ballynahinch? The evidence is mounting.

Is there a community of big cats or even one big cat in the hills around Dromara and Ballynahinch? The evidence is mounting but as yet inconclusive.

Over recent weeks a number of farmers in the Hill Road, Ballynahinch Road and Mullaghdrin Road areas are understood to have found sheep killed in what have appeared to be violent animal attacks. Some other landowners have found they have sheep missing and others bloodied and injured.

Some local residents have also claimed to have seen what they believed to be a ‘big cat’ in the same general area over a similar period of time.

These issues have now been brought to police attention and local officers are making enquiries.

Down District Councillor Robert Burgess, a Saintfield farmer and UUP Councillor, said: “I have just returned from the mart near Saintfield and spoken with a number of sheep farmers in the Dromara area. They said there is definitely something going on at the moment. But as yet they were puzzled as to what it was what it really was. Someone has said there was a wild doberman of the loose which may account for the sheep deaths.

“Interestingly, there are quite a number of otters around river courses etc and some people may even mistake them for big cats just through lack of familiarity. Sheep are relatively easy prey for a predatory animal. The farmers are keeping an eye open in any case and will look after their flocks.”

Since the Exotic Animals Act was introduced in 1976, a number of owners released their ‘pets’ into the wild. Black panthers, ocelots, pumas and lynxes has been known to roam the countryside mainly in England but there have been sightings in Scotland and Wales. It was also thought that there could have been enclaves of  native populations of big cats arising from the presence of the Romans 2000 years ago as they had a preoccupation with wild and exotic animals. Sightings in Northern Ireland have been few and far between.

A police spokesperson said: “While we would stress that there has been no confirmation of the presence of any ‘big cat’ in the area, we would ask that anyone who has lost sheep or other livestock in similar fashion recently or anyone who sees an animal which they believe to be dangerous, get in contact police.

“Under no circumstances should any wild or undomesticated animal be approached. Local police can be contacted on 0845 600 8000.

“Big cat sightings although are largely anecdotal are being talked about in farming circles. While animal attacks are not something which are generally reported to police, local farmers around Dromara have been telling the local Neighbourhood Policing Team  about incidents and sightings.”