Previously we had just finished the quarry palaver, so we can now join the action on Sunday the 7th of December, early in the morning. I awoke early for two reasons, one, today was the day of the British Killifish Society’s annual auction and Jon and Matthew were picking me up to get up there before it started (as it so happened we didn’t, but that’s another story), and also because I wanted to have a look at the deer carcass to see if it had been eaten in the night. I breakfasted and kitted up with the video camera, stills camera (with 70-300mm lens fitted) and cat hunting hat I went out to record the nights action.
After driving up to work the temperature plummeted down to freezing levels (-3 degrees C I think) and so the walk down the road to the deer was slower than expected. Now, I must now talk briefly about the landscape near where the deer was killed. The first photograph is taken from my viewpoint near the top of the hill before it snakes its way past the carp ponds and the dead deer. You can see the road in front of me with brambles and other short plants between the road and the carp pond. A plump bush can be seen on the left which cannot be seen in the second picture. This other photo taken from in a field shows the ponds behind the vegetation, plus its thickness. The position of the deer cannot be seen in either photo, but it is to the right on the pond in the second photo. Got all that? Good.
Walking down the path, I got to the sharp left turn before the road moves in the straight line visible in the photos. It was now that I heard a loud, harsh and distinctive “Khheeeea!”. My immediate thought was “Holy Hell! A Leopard’s warning vocalisation!”. Needless to say, I moved back slowly the way I had came with the camera trained on the area the cry had come from as well as the pond in case it began to move away from me. I heard nothing again, so I went over into the field to take the second photograph. Again, I saw and heard nothing. By this time it was getting up to leaving time to catch the Matt car up to the auction, but I kept moving around closer to the pond. I noticed behind me about 200yrds away a friend who was also interested in ABCs with whom I had been examining the deer’s evidence the day before. We began to chat quietly, and he had been up since before dawn broke to look around the area. He was a keen rifle hunter, so I would have expected him to be both vigilant and muted when moving. He said he had seen nothing other than a large dark mass moving through the woods which could have been a deer. Now I got a phone call from Jon to tell me that they were very close to our meeting area and that I better get a move on.
We ended up being about an hour late, but had a cracking day.
Over the next few weeks the deer was moved around a bit and eaten in parts, probably by badgers, to the present day where it still sits in a broken heap next to some brambles where the badgers keep picking at it.
Nothing really happened for a few weeks until Christmas day when I got bored and decided to go up to the original killing fields (hooray! A reference to a Slayer song!) to see what had changed. After getting very distracted by Ravens (these will wait for another blog) I began my scouting and went up into the field above the normal one and came across a very nice bloody carcase of an adult sheep with a huge hole ripped into its side. As you can see from the photos, a few of the organs including the lungs and probably the heart were still inside the animal. The body was still warm at the time of discovery (1400). The eyes had been taken by the Ravens. The sheep’s head was bent backwards in the same shape as all the other kills.
I photographed and videoed this kill as I have done for all the others, and continued nosing around. I found an old kill which had rotten down to the bones and so the only tissue left was the ligaments between the vertebrae. It was in the same field as the above kill, but in a quiet corner where it looked not to have been disturbed (normally the bodies are moved after a day or two or the farmer knowing that they are there). The attached photos show the skeleton, plus the important bit of evidence for a big cat killing the sheep. The head of the sheep was twisted around to face the opposite direction, whilst the ligaments were still attached. You can see the twisted vertebrae in the photo. I pulled at one of the ligaments after photographing and it came away with little pressure. Because the ligaments are still attached, this leads me to conclude that the sheep had its neck broken before it died, not from an external force after death.
Now, we come up to mid January and finally, I had my trigger cameras to catch this beast! I had tested them beforehand, and myself and a few friends attached them to the fence which something jumps over to get into the field. We set the camera (only one was working) up attached to a fence not in the farmer’s field, nor in the water works land but technically in the quarry’s land, but this seemed to be a no-man’s land between the quarry and the field. We left after this...
Only to return the next day to find that the camera had gone! Seething, I rang Richard who muttered something about “commoners” and “Southerners” before ringing the farmer to see if he had removed them. He said he hadn’t, but he would try and contact the water board to see if they had. I could see the headlines running in my head: “Water technician proves existence of big cats in Britain!”, then a day later “Monster hunters claim the photograph was stolen!” then finally “Monster hunters triumph thanks to video evidence!”. Maybe that was a bit farfetched, but never mind.
A few days later I went back up to the field with a friend to take some photographs of me in suitably dramatic poses for an article being written about me by Geoff Ward (who did the article about the haunted pub a week or so ago, check the archives). Whilst there, I noticed that a few of the jaws were loose from the skulls, so I picked them up for a closer look. I found puncture marks in one, which led me on to search for more. I “stole” 3 jaw bones with damage and a skull which just looks cool. Next time I am up to CFZ headquarters I will take them up for a better opinion than mine.
Let’s hope the next blog is not quite as heavy going as that!