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Discovery of Wild Cat Skull May _ Or May Not _ Solve Mystery

August 2, 1995

LONDON (AP) _ Three boys found a wild cat’s skull on Bodmin Moor, unleashing speculation it might belong to the Beast of Bodmin, the elusive creature blamed for killing livestock and scaring children.

Or then again, it might be a hoax.

Barney Lanyon Jones, 14, and his two brothers found the skull two weeks after scientists concluded the beast seen by farmers and hikers was nothing more than a domestic pet. Their conclusion tarnished a myth as exotic as the Loch Ness monster.

But a zoologist said Tuesday the boys’ find on the boggy swath of land 250 miles southwest of London was a wild cat skull, probably a leopard. The adult cat, he said, had been dead for three or four months.

``It is definitely genuine. There is no doubt at all,″ said Doug Richardson, London Zoo’s assistant curator of mammals, who examined the skull.

But the boys’ father, Keith Lanyon Jones, was skeptical and said his sons may be the victims of a hoax.

``I think the whole thing is a pretty convincing joke, as the skull can’t be a sheep or a pet,″ he said. ``But it’s got to be a set-up.″

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture also suggested the skull could have been planted.

``It is a skull, but how it got there, _ and when, _ is of course, open to question,″ said Geoffrey Pallett, adding that the ministry would not reopen investigations.

Rebuffing their doubts, Richardson asked: ``Where does the average punter get hold of a big cat’s skull?″

And he believes more wild cats are lurking in the countryside.

If proved, the death of a wild cat on Bodmin Moor would back the theory that exotic pets were released onto the moors by their owners, and have been living off local wildlife and the occasional sheep and calf.

Richardson said he will test the wild cat’s skull to determine the species, age and gender of the animal. He also planned to bring in trackers to search for more big cats.

``What we really need is a body, preferably a live one captured on the moor, and then the myth can well and truly be laid to rest,″ Richardson said.

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