February 19 1998

Gored goose adds bite to cat legend


A POST-MORTEM examination on a goose has lent substance for the first time to long-running speculation that big cats are at large in the British countryside. Police in Essex are taking the possibility seriously after receiving a report from a veterinary pathologist who examined the 12lb bird, found dead on a farm near North Weald more than two weeks ago.

"I have always been sceptical about the big-cat stories", Ranald Munro, of the Veterinary Laboratory Agency, a government-funded body in Edinburgh, said last night. "But to my surprise this seems to be the only explanation for the death of the goose. The bird had been killed by a bite to the neck, but what was unusual was the imprint of five claw marks which had cut deeply into the muscle on the right side of the chest. The paw mark was at least two inches wide, substantially larger than any domestic cat. A dog would not leave this kind of sharp, penetrating wound. I can only conclude that a large cat, probably of the size of a lynx, was responsible."

Numerous sightings of a large cat or cats have been reported in the Fyfield and Matching Tye areas of Essex over the past two years. The injuries to the goose were so striking that the police decided to send the carcass to Dr Munro. Quentin Rose, a wild animal trapper consulted by the police, said: "It is certanly a large cat - a panther, I should think."

Copyright 1998 Times Newspapers Limited.

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