Watch out for the Bridgelands Beast

Published: 19 Mar 2008 10:002 comments

WALKERS at this weekend"s hiking festival in Selkirk are being warned to watch out for the Bridgelands Beast.

A large black cat was spotted prowling in fields just outside the town on Monday morning.

And experts believe the colossal creature is likely to be a panther.

Dog walker Linda Connor observed the beast as it strolled down through a field adjacent to Spion Kop.

She told the Border Telegraph: 'It was pure black and bigger than my dog which is a German Shepherd.

'At first I thought it was a big dog, but as it kept coming down the field I soon realized it was a really big cat - a giant cat.

'I know how big a domestic cat can get but this was twice that size. It was a big powerful looking animal.

'There were sheep in the field and they had all gathered away at the other end.'

Farmer Scott Lambie revealed his flock at the Bridgelands had been acting unsettled over the weekend.

But there are no reports of any kills.

Mark Fraser from Scottish Big Cats is confident the Selkirk sighting is of a non-indigenous big cat.

He told us: 'There have been a number of sightings not too far from Selkirk in recent years - sightings are much more common than you would think.

'Around 80 per cent of the sightings are large black cats - this sounds very familiar for that area.

'The problem we have is gathering hard evidence such as footprints and I would like to hear from anyone who sees one of these cats or finds prints.'

Melanistic leopards -- also known as black panthers - are believed to be reasonably common in forest areas around Scotland and remote north England.

In recent years sightings have been recorded of big cats around Gala Hill, at the Waverley Castle Hotel outside Melrose, at the entrance to Clovenfords, above Innerleithen, at the Mansfield area in Hawick, just outside Ancrum and in the Yarrow Valley above St Mary"s Loch.

A spokeswoman from Lothian and Borders Police said: 'We do get reports of large cats from time to time but nothing recently.

'If we do receive a report of a sighting we would investigate it.'

Although no attacks on humans have been recorded locally organizers of

this weekend"s Selkirk Walking Festival aren"t taking any chances.

More than 100 hill hikers are expected to enjoy the six guide-led treks around the town"s surrounding countryside.

But one of Sunday"s strolls, which is led by Joyce Wright, may be diverted.

Eleanor McCudden from Selkirk Walking Festival said: 'Joyce"s walk comes back to Selkirk along the Bridgelands although we could guide the walkers along the A7 instead if any of them are worried.

'We don"t want a panther getting its claws into any of our guests.'

Places on the walks can be secured at the festival office in the town"s Market Square.

Sightings of the Bridgelands Beast should be reported to Scottish Big Cats on 07940016972.

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