Cryptozoology covers several branches of unknown animals including animals which have not been proven to exist, animals that exist but are misplaced or out of their usual habitat, and animals of legend and lore. In the case of the Black Beast of Exmoor, we may be looking at a creature that exists, but is not indigenous to the area. It could have been misplaced by large pet owners who released the animals, or the animals escaped in the wild. In 1976, a law was passed known as the Dangerous Wild Animals Act which basically banned private ownership of big cats. Owners could either not afford a permit, or were unable to obtain the proper permission and were forced to dispose of their big cats. This resulted in many of the big cats being released into the wild.
Many of the locals believe a small group of these black cats live in the Exmoor National Park located on the Bristol Coast of Devon and Somerset. The park is an area of hilly moorland with plenty of farms in the area which have reported the loss of livestock, mainly sheep, with wounds to the throat and neck. A South Molton farmer reported a loss of over 100 sheep in three months in 1983. Live stock attacks continued with the biggest kills in 1987 when over 200 farm animals were involved.
The description of the Exmoor beast reports the beast to have black, tan, or dark grey fur. The beast is reported to be a large cat like creature which may be a puma or panther. It is four to eight feet in length from tip of the tail to the nose. It stands low to the ground, and can leap over six foot walls and fences with ease.
The numerous farm animal kills in 1983 prompted the Ministry of Agriculture to bring in the Royal Marines with their best snipers to hunt down and kill the Beast. Many of the Marines reported seeing the animal momentarily when it vanished into the bushes. No shots were ever fired. The Marines were not sure of their backstop thinking their high-powered bullets would pass through the creature and possibly injuring livestock or farmers in the local region. The Marines were eventually removed, and the Ministry concluded the beast was either a hoax or a myth. However the deaths of farm animals continued.
Regardless of what the government says, there is still something out there killing farm animals and being seen by witnesses. This case should not be closed.