Thursday, 4 September 2014
NEWSLINK: The Mystery of Britain’s Alien Big Cats
In a nation where the biggest carnivorous predator is a badger, why are there so many reported sightings of large cats?
BY KATIE HEANEY • August 20, 2014 • 12:00 PM
In 1983, a farmer in South Molton, a small town in the southern English county of Devon, reported a startling loss in livestock: 100 sheep had been killed, apparently violently, over a period of three months. Their throats had been slashed across. For many, the slaughter confirmed the area’s vague but persistent legend, sighted since the early 1970s, of a large, possibly phantom cat. Named for the hilly moorland it was said to roam, they called it the “Beast of Exmoor.”
The public reacted swiftly. The Daily Express offered the equivalent of a $1,600 reward for video footage of the Beast. More surprisingly, the British government sent a group of Royal Marines snipers into the hills to find (and possibly kill) the creature. The seriousness with which they treated the mission can probably be assessed through the name they gave it: “Operation Beastie.” Still, the snipers looked for three nights, until the Ministry of Defense called off the search due to concerns they might mistakenly shoot one of several reward-seeking amateur photographers thought to be on the same hunt.