'Crazed Otters', prowling panthers and Bigfoot - Ireland's history of odd beasts
THERE are two certainties to an Irish summer – the sun will split the stones during the Leaving Cert and wild beasts will be spotted roaming the countryside.
This week the PSNI issued a warning to the public that a large, cat-like creature, believed to be a panther, had been spotted near Newry.
They warned the public not to approach the animal and to immediately contact police if they spotted it.
The panther has yet to be tracked down and captured – and it may yet prove to be little more than a chubby house cat.
However, some wildlife experts believe there may be ‘big cats’ on the loose in the Irish countryside, and there are dozens of reported sightings every year.
It is suspected that the animals – possibly including panthers, lynx and pumas – may have been imported as pets, but were released when they proved difficult to manage.
Six years ago, police were called after a sighting of a large cat in Co. Down who was suspected of killing sheep in the area.
The animal – which was also believed to be a panther – was never caught.
Back in 2004 the Garda Air Support Unit and army marksmen were also deployed to Monaghan, where another large cat was spotted.
It was reported that a puma-like creature had been seen close to a housing estate and that army marksmen were also involved in the hunt.
A few days earlier it had been reported that a calf on a farm in Monaghan had been killed and eaten by a large cat.
And large cats are not the only strange beasts spotted here.
Five years ago, Laois woman Rebecca Deegan claimed she saw a Bigfoot wandering around the woods of Stradbally.
In a world exclusive, she told the Sunday World she was camping out with her partner Chris Craig when they started to hear strange noises outside their tent. When they went to investigate she encountered what she believed was the Sasquatch of Stradbally.
She admitted the story sounded somewhat far-fetched, but was adamant it was true as she recounted the chilling tale.
“It was seven or eight foot tall and standing upright on two legs. It had a kind of sleek fur. It was black with a bit of grey. We got a photograph as it was going away. We were speechless,” she said.
The picturesque village of Tulla in Co. Clare has seen not one, but two beasts roaming its environs in recent years.
Locals are believed to still huddle around camp fires to tell the tale of the Crazed Otter of Tulla. While not as large as some of the other beasts spotted around Ireland, it would be a mistake to think the Crazed Otter was harmless.
Just ask local farmer Joe Burke, who got a nasty bite from the carnivorous creature when he and other locals spotted it shuffling up the main street and tried to return it to water back in 2011.
Joe’s pal Mike Hogan described the otter as “very aggressive”. The locals managed to put the menacing mammal in a canvas bag to bring it to the lake, but when they arrived they discovered he had bitten through the bag, jumped out the window of their vehicle and made his way back into town.
They found the wily weasel again and eventually got him back to the lake after putting a traffic cone on top of him to stop him getting away.
Locals still had the memory of the Crazed Otter fresh in their minds when another wild beast descended on Tulla.
The Wild Boar of Tulla shocked walkers in a wooded area near the village in 2014.
One local man said: “He just stopped on the path and stood there. He had a good look at us, but did nothing. I was sure he was going to come at us. He walked off into the woods again, but I won’t be going back there until I know he’s gone. If he comes near my house, I won’t have a problem taking the shotgun to it.”
The residents of Co. Clare are no strangers to strange beasts. As far back as the 1800s there were claims that a sea serpent similar to the Loch Ness monster was spotted off the coast of Kilkee.
There were various supposed sighting of the beast and in 1871 the Limerick Chronicle reported that several people said they had seen a “large and frightening sea monster” and had “all their nerves considerably upset by the dreadful appearance of this extraordinary creature”.
Another account of a sighting of the beast said: “It had an enormous head, shaped somewhat like a horse, while behind the head and on the neck was a huge mane of seaweed-looking water; the eyes were large and glaring, and, by the appearance of the water behind, a vast body seemed to be beneath the waves.”
For years there have been reports of a mysterious beast roaming Kilkenny and Waterford. The animal, believed to be a panther, became known as The Beast of Listrolin as it was mostly spotted near the Kilkenny townland.