In many ways we are very lucky. We get to travel around the world looking for mystery animals, and then write books about our adventures. Of course it isn’t quite as simple as that, because there is a whole slew of mundane administration and stuff, but on the whole doing what we do is a heck of a lot better than having a proper job. We live in Woolsery and we run The Centre for Fortean Zoology – the world’s largest mystery animal research group, and once a year we invite devotees of the weird and wonderful here for the internationally famous Weird Weekend.

We also write a monthly column for The Bideford Post and we decided that it was about time that we introduced Weird Torridgeside to the blogosphere..

Saturday, 7 March 2009


Jan initially wrote to us the other day:

The horne'd bunny of Woolsery

My initial thought was ‘taint no bunny... looks more like a sheep or deer perhaps. But it’s hard to see how big these prints of yours are. Like you, I have seen lots of bunny footprints in snow, and they NORMALLY look like this but in looking for this image on google, I came across this photo, which is also supposed to be rabbit footprints: which looks very much like your images, doesn’t it?

I currently have 21 pet rabbits looking for homes here at the sanctuary... we also have some snow.... Would it be really really terribly cruel of me to test it out? You know: Bunny walking in snow; bunny running in snow; bunny freezing it’s ...err... tail off in snow.... all in the name of science, you understand...

So I wrote back:

would you? And could you film and photograph it? We have no secure area in which to do it without the sods escaping... (and the snow is almost gone)



But two days later she replied:

Typical really.... Most of the snow has melted overnight, but more is expected in the next week. I will get you photos, and try to track down a video camera too. However, I showed your footage to a friend who is a crypto-naturalist, and HE doesn’t think it’s bunny either. The track is too straight, for one thing, and it looks biped. Rabbits (at any speed) will use all 4 feet. When it’s in a hurry, the big back feet appear to be in front of the smaller front ones, but you’d see all 4 feet... especially in snow that’s not deep. I still think it could be a deer or perhaps Boar – but the footprint would be deeper in the soft soil for boar. Do you have muntjac or roe deer nearby? Sheep /lamb perhaps, but you wouldn’t just get one. Or maybe goat??

Have you thought of Springheeled Jack?
And what do you think the “original” devil prints were? I have theories ranging from elaborate hoax to weather balloon, but I don’t believe the tracks went on for hundreds of miles, as reported.
Meanwhile.... back at the Ranch... we have our own mystery here. Not nearly to this scale (always trying to get one better, aren’t you?) but a mystery all the same. It’s the Phantom Peanut Pincher. We have bags of peanuts and suet balls and things hanging on trees for the birds. Something is eating a whole bag of peanuts and stealing suet balls from one of the trees during the night. Whatever-it-is, is too timid to come close to the house, where the birds make use of the food. It doesn’t tear holes in the peanut bag, like a rat or a squirrel would. It isn’t a small bird, because they go on all our bird feeders, and the other ones are only needing topped up once or twice a week.... plus whatever-it-is, takes down the mesh bags of suet and eats the contents, 10 foot from the tree on a dry stone wall. We are going to set a trap tonight – wet sand around the bottom of the tree, to see if we can get some tracks. I’m wondering about a pine marten...

Well, as always seems to be the case, you start looking at one mystery and you end up looking at another. I have been on the track of England's elusive marten population for twenty years now, and there are, indeed, records of this rare and beautiful carnivore in Co. Durham. The only problem being that according to accepted scientific methodology the species was hunted to extinction in all of England by the 1870s....

No comments:

Post a Comment