Could ‘big cat’ be a feral feline?

Feral cat
Feral cat

‘Big cat’ sightings in the wider Dromara and Hillsborough areas have been causing a stir but a local farmer believes it is large feral cats causing havoc in the country.

This week it was reported that a ‘big cat’ had been blamed for savaging sheep on a number of farms .

Police and the USPCA urged public vigilance in the area following the claims.

According to police, farmers in the Hill Road, Ballynahinch Road and Mullaghdrin Road areas are reported to have found sheep killed in what appeared to be attacks by a predator.

Other landowners have found that sheep were missing or bloodied and injured.

While some folk have gone as far to say they believe the mysterious animal attacking livestock could be a black cat like a panther one farmer believes this is not the case.

Lisburn DUP councillor Luke Poots said he had been speaking with a local farmer who had problems with his sheep being attacked and miscarrying.

The farmer went out and kept watch one night and saw for himself a large feral cat attacking his livestock.

Mr Poots explained that the farmer shot dead the cat and is convinced that feral cats are the source of the problem.

David Wilson of the USPCA said that most large cat sightings come to nothing.

He said the only case where a cat was ever caught in Northern Ireland was on February 18, 1996 when police shot a Lynx at Garvallagh Road in Fintona, Co Tyrone.

“Report all suspected sightings to the PSNI so that information can be collated, if there is something behind it police are the best people to tell,” Mr Wilson said.

“A large cat isn’t as likely as it would have been 10 years ago, when there was no dangerous wild animals legislation in Northern Ireland.

“I know of one positive sighting in Northern Ireland and that was a long time ago, it was a lynx up near Omagh, and it was shot by police.”

Police said local officers were “making inquiries”.

A spokesperson said that while the presence of a ‘big cat’ was unconfirmed, people should exercise caution.

“While we would stress that there has been no confirmation of the presence of any ‘big cat’ in the area,” he said, “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 with police.

“Under no circumstances should any wild or undomesticated animal be approached.”