By Rory Reynolds
POLICE are hunting what was feared to be a massive wolf on the loose after a member of the public claimed to have seen it being chased through a field by a herd of furious cattle.
Stunned Keith McDowell said he witnessed the bizarre scene while he was walking along the edge of Polkemmet Country Park near Whitburn in West Lothian on Tuesday.
Lothian and Borders Police, who sent a team of officers to investigate, say they have alerted local farmers at locations near the country park.
Mr McDowell, 38, – who is a manager at the government’s Housing Access department – reported the sighting to police because so many children walk through the area.
He said: “I was just having a walk alongside the park when I saw a bit of commotion with the younger calves in the field just across from me.
“I saw something circling the cattle – but at first I thought it was only the farmers dog or perhaps a fox.
“But then the larger cattle began charging right down the field after this animal I think it had been after the calves.
“It came right through the fence onto the road – the cattle were stamping their feet and roaring around behind the gate.
“A small blue car came down the road and slowed down – if it hadn’t slowed down it would have hit the animal.
“I was about 30 yards away when I realised it wasn’t a fox – and it was way too big for a dog.
“It was only when I saw the size of it I knew it was a wolf.
“It was silver with a sort of black dark streak along the back and it and quite a bushy tail.
“It was either a wolf or the biggest, strangest looking Alsatian I’ve ever seen.”
He added: “I really thought I hope it doesn’t turn on me – then it turned and dashed off into the park.”
Keith was concerned after the creature escaped into the country park – where families and children often to play.
He added: “When I got home the only thing on my mind that was it was definitely a wolf.
“It was a bit unnerving – which is why I called the police.”
“There’s kids around there and everything – it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police confirmed that they are investigating the sighting.
He said: “We received a call from a member of the public saying that he had seen something that looked like a wolf near Polkemmet Country Park.
“The man said that the animal was larger than a dog and silver in colour.
“One patrol car was sent out to look for the creature.
“We’ve also spoken to the local farmer and made him aware of the sighting.”
Central Scotland is home to many sightings of unusual creatures – in particular a variety of big cats and wolves.
Last month a horse was attacked by what was described as a puma near Sundrum Holiday Park in Ayrshire.
Richard Morely – Director of the Wolves and Humans Foundation – says he’s sceptical about sightings of wolves around the UK – but admits that wolves have escaped captivity before.
He said: “It is unusual to see wolves in the wild – but there are a number of people who claim they have seen what they believe to be wolves.
“I can tell you that to my knowledge there aren’t any wolves living wild in the UK.
“But if it is a wolf it’s more likely to be escaped from a private collection or a zoo.
“This happened a number of years ago when there was a sighting on the Dartmoor hills – and it turned out to be a wolf that had escaped from a local wildlife park.
“You do sometimes get people who have private collections – I believe 30 to 100 are kept privately in this country.
“And there are some that are thought to be kept illegally.”
Sightings of wolves and big cats are often out down to a change of legislation in 1976 when the Dangerous Animals Act came into force to combat the increasing fashion of keeping exotic animals.
Many people released their creatures into the wild to avoid them being put down.
Richard added: “That is often the explanation for a lot of sightings – I don’t deny that there may be wolves out there and I don’t rule out escape.”
SSPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said that it was unlikely that the creature spotted was a wolf.
He said: “There are no licensed collectors of wolves in the central belt in Scotland – so it is extremely unlikely that one has escaped and found its way to this area.
“If one had escaped, we would have been one of the first organisations to be contacted.
“It may be that whoever reported this sighting is mistaken and may have seen a breed of dog similar to a wolf.
“However, it is also likely that there will be some people who own huskies in the central belt.”
He added that the sighting might have been of an Utonagan – an unusual mix of German Shepherd, Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute.