Monday, 14 April 2014

Nessie on Land: Predator

It is back to this blog's occasional series on land sightings and there is one interesting aspect to the Loch Ness Monster on land and that is its role as hunter. Of the thirty five alleged land cases I know about, three are reported with an indication of prey being carried away.

Now sightings of a large creature in Loch Ness are interesting, stories of this monster lumbering about on land are even more fascinating. But stories of the monster helping itself to cows, sheep, deer and other animals around the loch boggles the mind and may make some a bit wary of  wild camping along secluded parts of the shore! Critics have often complained there are not enough fish in the loch to sustain a group of large predators, but what about on land? It is now time to indulge in some wild speculation!

The first case of these three is the famous story of the Spicers, though the suggestion of predation here is not so clear. George Spicer had reported seeing something like a lamb on the back of the creature but this was transformed into a tale of the monster carrying off a lamb in its mouth. However, the Spicers had never claimed to have seen the head of the creature. The picture below by the talented Gino D'Achille sums up how the media culture overlaid this sighting into a story of a prehistoric monster carrying off some hapless livestock.

As an aside, I remembered this painting from a book I owned in my youth and it was only a few days ago that I found the book in a charity shop in Edinburgh for a couple of quid. It was Mysterious Monsters by Daniel Farson for those who collect these things.




The second such story is attributed to a Mrs. Eleanor Price-Hughes in 1933. The oldest source for this story comes from sea serpent researcher Oudemans in 1934 who wrote an article on the Loch Ness Monster with these words roughly translated from the Dutch:

1933 (no date). Mrs. ELEANOR PRICE-HUGHES, Stanford, Surrey.

Her husband saw it, coming from a thicket at Drumnadrochit and disappear into the loch, with what appeared to be a baby in its mouth; are not baby seals pinkish?

Commander Gould wrote to me, dated 5th June 1934 thinking it was a mere hoax. On what grounds? Because he believes that the Loch Ness creature is like a giant salamander. This "flesh-colored baby" was probably a big .... ?

The last word is lost on my copy, so could be anything that lives by the loch side (certainly not baby seals). So it was not Mrs. Price Hughes, but her husband who allegedly witnessed this event. I suspect the original source for this story lies in an article or letter written to an English newspaper at the time. It appears that Oudemans accepted this report but Gould did not.

Since the loch is not visible from Drumnadrochit, this story is more likely to have taken place around the rivers feeding into Urquhart Bay just beyond the village. I have scouted around this area several times which is the location for several land sightings. There are pathways winding around the area, though other parts need a bit of an effort to get to.

Of course, the mention of the emotive words "baby in its mouth" may well have motivated Gould to have pronounced this a hoax. Portraying the Loch Ness Monster as a man-eater excites the imagination, but would it do much good for tourism or credible research?

One sceptic suggested this story may have been a seal with a pink salmon in its mouth or a cow with its pink tongue hanging out. However, the credibility of these suggestions is predicated on the witness catching only the briefest and inconclusive of glimpses of the creature. The text of the report suggests otherwise. The creature was seen to emerge from a thicket and disappear into the loch. Clearly, it would help to see the original account, before forming a better judgement.

The third account is similar to the Price-Hughes story. The story is found in Paul Harrison's "The Encyclopedia of the Loch Ness Monster" and though he does not state the source, it seems clear it was a local newspaper report. An anonymous witness described as a "very trustworthy man" was driving north of Foyers at about 5:30 in the morning of 15th May 1971. It is then stated that he saw a large grey animal appear from the woods to his left dragging itself into the loch. In its mouth were parts of an animal, possibly a cow. It was described as lizard like, 30 foot long and 6 foot tall with an oily sheen on its skin.

Sunrise is at about 5am at that time of year and the driver must have been driving south for the creature to appear from his left. I have no idea what kind of livestock grazed around that area in 1971, but if this story was true, it could equally be a deer.

So that is it, three reports or more likely two mentioning a Loch Ness Monster as a land hunter. It is not much to go on, but are they indicative of a behavioural pattern of the creature that is barely known?

First it has to be said that aquatic creatures hunting land based creatures is no big deal. The YouTube clip below of crocodiles taking out gazelles will be familiar to watchers of wildlife documentaries.





Looking more closely at flipper-based creatures, who can forget the spectacular shots of killer whales driving themselves onto land to capture seals?





On a more sedate level but perhaps more relevant is this intriguing clip of catfish sneaking up on pigeons for an unexpected meal.






No doubt there are other examples, but I think I have got the point across that certain species of water based animals are not limited to what they can find in the water to survive. But how relevant is this to the Loch Ness Monster? 

Clearly, there are no reports of any such displays of predation at the loch shoreline. The stories we have here are of the beast moving inland to seek out prey whilst these clips have the predator staying within its preferred domain.

If there is anything to this aspect of the Loch Ness Monster, then it has to be a behavioural trait that occurs at night time. I have already stated my belief elsewhere that Nessie is largely a creature of the dark.  This is borne out by the fact that a higher proportion of land sightings occur in hours of darkness.  

But the question has to be asked why the Loch Ness Monster would take to land at all? What motivates any creature to behave in certain ways? Since animals are primarily driven by the instinct to survive, I would suggest this boils down to the matter of food. The other factor is reproduction, but I see that as a less likely candidate here. In other words, it is not just these two or three stories about the monster with food in its mouth that are relevant, the whole genre of land sightings has "food" written all over it.

Now the first thing to dismiss here is the idea of Nessie chasing cows and sheep around the fields of Loch Ness. It is just not on when you consider the nature of the beast. The motion of the creature on land is described variously as waddling, lumbering and jerking. I suspect even a pregnant cow could easily evade a land bound Nessie.

No, the modus operandi must function along the lines of the animals mentioned above. Just as  crocodiles, orcas and catfish cannot pursue gazelles, seals or pigeons on land, neither can the Loch Ness Monster. Our little gedankenexperiment must also embrace the concept of the ambush.

The ambush can operate in two domains, at the shoreline, like other aquatic predators, or further inland. In both cases, our dark skinned creature lies inert in the darkness waiting for its quarry. At the shoreline, it lies in the shallows as deer come to the loch to drink. Inland, it lies amongst the trees, indistinguishable from the rocks around it.

In this imagined scenario, the long neck of the beast comes into its own. The deer approaches the peat stained waters seeking to slake its thirst. Unaware of the dark mass about six feet away, it is suddenly seized in the leg by a long, sleek neck that thrusts from that black lump. The last thing the deer sees are the receding trees as it is dragged into the loch to a watery death. The ancient Kelpie legend of victims being taken into the loch takes on a new meaning.

The inland version of this is similar in its execution, though since more energy and risk is required in this venture, it makes it seems a less likely episode to me. Not impossible, just less likelier than staying at the shoreline waiting for the victims to arrive. Having said that, the night time hunt by the shore is less likely to be observed by potential witnesses from the road.

As I said, it is speculation, but if there is a Loch Ness Monster, it is a possible one. How much food could land based creatures provide for a monster diet? I cannot say, but an entire deer is a major meal, more than a goodly number of fish.

And what does this mean in practise for the seasoned monster hunter? The frequency of land sightings is down over the decades. Increased fencing, thicker foliage and noisier roads all act as deterrents. But I already have my night vision equipment, I just need to stake out the appropriate beach at the dead of night. Just be wary of those dark rocks which don't quite look right .....











56 comments:

  1. nice article. A couple years back I told you of a guy going around saying that "the loch ness monster eats sheep--always two; the first on land the second she takes into the loch." I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and saying he HEARD this instead of just made it up, but you made it pretty clear he didn't know what he was talking about....


    I wonder where the idea came from, though? Especially the "always two" part? maybe the guy DiD just make it up....

    Greg

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    1. I suppose it is possible for a sheep to be ambushed in the manner discussed for deer. I am not actually sure there are much sheep around the immediate vicinity of the loch.

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  2. "...I have already stated my belief elsewhere that Nessie is largely a creature of the dark..."

    And THAT is what hooked me, the first time I checked out this blog; I was honestly wondering if anyone besides me thought so. Once I read that, I said "OK, this dude and his blog are the Real Deal that I've been looking for online for over 10 years now!" And articles like this are what keep me coming back; well done, you.

    Confession: The idea of Nessie being able to amble about on land used to scare the hell outta me as a kid! So this article creeped me out while it also informed me. I've always been of two minds on the subject; the classic descriptions of Nessie don't really paint a picture of a creature that can waddle about like a seal. But some of these people who've seen it, the ones that can be verifed as much as possible as being honest/sane folk with seemingly nothing to gain... I feel like they must have seen SOMEthing, whether a "creature" or misidentified animal, *because* they reported it. It's one thing to open yourself up to the criticism and ridicule of saying you saw Nessie in the lake, but why would you amplify that negative/mocking response with a story THAT crazy, if you didn't see something weird?
    But then, they say there's none so queer as folk, don't they?

    Yours in Nessiana,

    Storm

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    1. Yuo got me skitterish about going out to the loch at night now! :)

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  3. Hmmm, not sure about this theory.

    There's not a whole lot of wildlife around Loch Ness shores (if you take people out of the equation). Deer tend to live quite high up, as do the mountain goats you tend to see along the Southeastern shore. There are very few sheep living close to the shore.

    All in all i think it';d need to be one very very patient (and hopefully not too hungry) animal to lie in wait for passing wildlife.

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    1. When I did my night drive between Foyers and Dores last year, I encountered one deer crossing the road and several smaller animals. Doubtless there were others out of sight.

      Access to the loch water for deer is probably limited to certain tracks. Whether a monster would be aware of such places is a matter of speculation.

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    2. In over 20 years of living by the loch i can count the number of deer i've seen by the waterside on the fingers of one hand. I'm sure they're around, but in enough numbers to make them a realistic food source for a predator that we have to assume is restricted to within 50m of the shoreline? I'm not convinced.

      Land excursions would need to be a southern shore thing, the northern shore is just too busy these days, day and night.

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    3. How many visit the loch shore at night time? That is the main question.

      And why is the predator limited to within 50m of the shoreline?

      Agreed that this is more a southern shore thing, reports confirm this.

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    4. I wouldn't have thought a large animal we all agree would be sluggish on land would be straying more than 50m beyond the shoreline, especially given the terrain on the southern shore. If it did, i'd expect it to leave significant ground-sign.

      There are very few places on the southern shore where you're not into pretty steep and slow moving ground 20m beyond the shoreline.

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    5. Agreed, but would anyone notice ground signs if they were not looking for it?

      How about moving up the various streams in terms of inland movement?

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    6. The only 'stream' i can think of fitting the bill would be the river at Foyers. Now if Nessie was prone to taking a wee wander up that - we'd definitely know about it!

      Am i right in thinking the last land sighting was around the 70s? It would appear this aspect of the phenomenon has died out.

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    7. How about the Farigaig?

      Last such report in 2009.

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    8. What were the details of the 2009 sighting? Haven't heard of this one.

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  4. The River Monster show has an episode in New Zealand where a sheep farmer informs Jeremy Wade of watching 6-foot eels kill sheep crossing a small river. The eels ate their way into the sheep through the sheep's rectum and ripped their way inside. Perhaps this behavior is applicable to Nessie. Interesting article.

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    1. Geordie Sceptic17 April 2014 10:22

      I think Nessie has disappeared up a sheep's backside. It would explain the lack of any credible video evidence.

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  5. I find the 1971 sighting hard to believe. Could such a large animal move through woods fast enough to catch a deer, and wouldn't it leave an obvious track?

    Also, in your 3 videos the food source is right there in the predator's own habitat. As I recall that road, the monster would be faced by a steep climb, a road crossing and another steep climb before even seeing its prey. The success rate of such an expedition would be low, so if this were a significant part of its diet it should be seen on land more often.

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    1. I think the word "fast" in terms of entire body movement has already been demoted in the article. Obvious tracks depends where the story happened.

      Yes, they are in the predator's own habitat which is why I gave more of a nod to that kind of scenario.

      The route from water to other side of the road is a very variable situation. A lot of places are just not suitable, some are. A drive up and down that road would reveal the best spots for further investigation.

      As for importance to diet, well, with only a few dozen land sightings to look at, that would suggest this is not important - unless night events are more frequent than first presumed.


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    2. Not sure if Big N would have the necessary (land) speed for catching cattle. Had the idea that she was described as a bit of a sluggish abomination. (Will need to break the prejudices of a lifetime and watch these Internet videos though.)
      There's probably a place for a blog post on carrion and waterfowl a l'orange (for birthdays and special occasions). And F.W. Holiday had this thing about locals seeing lochside broken bushes as evidence of the creature on land.

      Best wishes,
      *AnonStg*

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    3. No doubt that Nessie would be sluggish on land, its down to the element of surprise and a neck that can lash out.

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    4. Yeah, we should do an Energy Returned On Energy Invested analysis.

      *AnonStg*

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    5. Hmmm, the range of possible parameter values would make an analysis go either way I suspect.

      For example, how would one do this EROEI analysis on the crocodile, orca and catfish examples?

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  6. Geordie Sceptic15 April 2014 14:03

    What kind of limbs could enable fast swimming plus the ability to crawl over roads and have enough speed to catch large livestock, plus strength to carry them back to the loch?
    Also, isn't the explanation for nighttime sightings more indicative of people not seeing things clearly due to poor light?
    Roland, be honest - is your entire blog a spoof?

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    1. Plenty of creatures can move on both land and water. Even eels cross roads. Nobody is saying this is something easy and that may explain why there are so few land sightings. Neither did I say livestock were carried back. Dragged more like, body parts carried at best.

      My article is speculative, I flagged that early enough. And I am not saying the LNM can overtake land based animals. I speculated it was based on the element of surprise and a short burst of speed, perhaps the long neck darting to clamp onto its victim.

      No one has ever claimed to have seen this happen, hence it is all speculation - an attempt to explain land sightings - from the point of view of someone who accepts such reports as genuine and accurate.

      As for poor light, some are but most are not. Just like water based sightings.

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    2. Geordie Sceptic15 April 2014 23:08

      Eels can do it yes, but we're talking about a (theoretical) large animal which you're suggesting is big enough to drag carcasses, so I ask you seriously to stop and think about the absurdity of this - all large water-based animals primarily designed for swimming cannot move comfortably over land. Think of the slow shuffle of a sea lion or seal. This is due to the sheer weight of the animals, coupled with flipper limbs. On the other hand, if you know of an example of a large animal without legs which can move over land in any kind of efficient manner enabling the behaviour you describe here, please enlighten us.
      To me, this article is a poorly thought out post Roland. What you're describing simply breaks the laws of physics.

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    3. Ermm, we have example in the videos of land animals being grabbed and dragged away. Did you watch them at all? Flipper based, proportionally larger animal, grabs a creature on land, drags it into the water.

      Ever tried to catch a pigeon in open space with your bare hands? Not easy, but this fish can do it. It's all about the element of surprise, not how fast a creature is on land.

      Try again, GS. You'll be surprised how inventive and ingenious animal tactics can be.

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    4. Geordie Sceptic16 April 2014 05:07

      20ft, 30ft, 40ft bulky, humped animal with flippers climbing up from the loch to cross a road and grab a sheep or cow to drag back into the water? Truly ridiculous, and nothing on this page or elsewhere shows evidence of such a possibility.
      It's so against the laws of physics and biology that it's actually embarrassing. The old "Don't underestimate nature" thing is your standard get out whenever a theory starts looking absurd. I say don't underestimate physics.

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    5. I never actually said that.

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    6. Geordie Sceptic18 April 2014 12:27

      In answer to your question, I have indeed tried to catch a pigeon, but I've never been successful - largely due to my useless assistants Klunk, Zilly and Muttley. Drat and double drat!!

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    7. Any human disappearances Glasgow boy?

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    8. Ah, the ultimate question! Only in folklore stories. People do disappear over the years in the area as they would anywhere else in Britain. I read of a lady that went missing near Dores in the 1930s, her body turned up a few weeks later in a field. If the body had not turned up, who knows what speculation may have ensued.

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    9. Even if sheep were going missing on a weekly or monthly basis I think that they would be noticed. If something were emerging to take prey on land then I suggest that it might be more comfortable with something closer to trout or salmon size, like a rabbit. I keep thinking back to a nature film of a mountain lion choosing to hook dead fish out of a pool rather than go for something more ambitious. Even if you're 25 feet long you don't want a possible bite or injury from wrestling with something a few feet long. There's no Ness NHS.

      *AnonStg*

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  7. One of the animals feared by Ernest Shackleton and his comrades in their epic Antarctic trek was the leopard seal. Granted this large seal has flippers, not legs, and is not particularly agile on land/ice...BUT this seal's hunting methods fit GB's speculation, and was feared by these tough-as-nails men. I would not characterize the leopard seal's movements on land as a 'slow shuffle.' Shackleton certainly did not. Additionally, the much larger sea lions I have seen basking on land are quick enough to hurt you if you are stupid enough to get within lunging distance. The same with a Komodo dragon. All are ambush predators specializing in quick lunges and savage bites while remaining motionless. While I don't think Nessie is a snake, the larger anacondas are legless and can move over land in an 'efficient manner' while taking prey the size of deer or sheep.
    On a side note, I wish to congratulate GB on his even-tempered remarks in the face of criticism. Admirable. Well done.

    Regards,

    richard

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    1. You should check out some of the Bigfoot forums, at each others throats sometimes!

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  8. Geordie Sceptic17 April 2014 05:16

    Has anyone seen the terrain and slope between the loch and the part of the road where the Spicers claimed their sighting? Or the Price-Hughes sighting? A couple of photos of these areas from GB on his next visit would put an end to this nonsensical idea that a large flipper limbed animal could get up there.
    Photos please GB, to aid our armchair pontification!

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    1. I will get out of my armchair soon to do some on site investigation.

      No one has any idea where these occurences happened, but some prime sites could be located.

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    2. Has anyone ever dissapeared at lochness?

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  9. GB, I don't suppose you've ever seen or heard about this series, I remember watching it on Sky one back in the mid-90s (during the heyday of the 'X-Files). It was an Australian produced series but the show I used to watch on Sky One was hosted by Corbin Benson (LA Law)
    skip to thirty minutes on the video there is a feature on Nessie.
    If http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E89qRByA8sQyou

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    1. Ah, Gordon Powell! Thanks for that, Jimmy.

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    2. I'd have thought they could've stretched to better photographs than The Surgeon's Photo and one of Champ!

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  10. You're welcome G.B...I used to look forward to this series back in the 90s, every Tuesday night on the old Sky One Channel. The X Files was always shown first then this was shown second. The series that's been uploaded on Youtube however is the original Australian series, with the presenter that I preferred Warwick Moss. The 90s series that I watched was hosted by Corbin Benson. Funnily enough there was one feature that appeared on the show that haunted my memory for years and it has eventually made it's way onto Youtube, just search for Australian 'Yowie' photograph. I won't say no more but I think you'll find something of interest in it!

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  11. Just because a creature jumped in the loch in a certain location doesnt mean he got out at the exact location .

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  12. This seems relevant to the Spicer sighting, and possibly others. From Malaya:

    "There a witness reported having seen a dinosaur cross the road in the beams of his headlamps. He estimated it to be not less than 25 feet long.

    When taken round the galleries of the Raffles Museum so that he could indicate the kind of animal he thought he had seen, he pointed without hesitation to a pangolin and agreed he had misjudged size and distance. The Malayan pangolin is less than 3 feet long."

    From Karl Shuker's blog at

    http://www.karlshuker.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/the-perils-of-pangolins-when.html

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  13. I find it hard to believe these creatures so rarely seen in the water would come out on land! But ya never know !!!!

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    1. Roughly for every 38 claimed water sightings there is 1 claimed land sighting.

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  14. I thought there was only a few land sightings GB ?

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    1. About 35, check the table here:

      http://lochnessmystery.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/nessie-on-land-overview.html

      I learn of new ones about once a year!

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  15. Interesting. Ive spoke to loads people who have seen things in the loch. But never on land !

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    1. They've tailed off rapidly since the mania of 1933-34. Since those days, they now occur about once every four years. Not exactly common, only sightings underwater are a rarer class of sighting.

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  16. There are more sightings than are reported. I know a few people who have seen things but never reported them!

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    1. Yup, and no doubt some land ones too! Email me at shimei123@yahoo.co.uk if you want to speak about these unreported stories in private, Jake.

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  17. Ok. But its over the years ive bin going and hearing stories! Not many people actually report what they see

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  18. I know first hand that sightings dont get reported. Me and my friend saw the chanel 5 monster lucy come up in fort augustus!!! Although it turned out to be a hoax the fact is we didnt report it and neither did some of the others that saw it!! A clear big hump in the water followed by a head and neck and still i didnt report it. Even though it turned out to be a hoax i dont think i wud of reported it anyway lol

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  19. You've certainly given me something to think about on my daily Dores - Foyers and back cycle!

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    1. Quite a few cyclists on that road this weekend - practicing for upcoming bicycle race?

      You should stick a helmet-cam on! You never know what you might record. In fact, that might deter Nessie from lumbering in front of you. :)

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    2. GB,if what you say about Nessie's modus operandi is true i.e. lying in wait to strike, it occurs to me that even humans might be at risk. Who knows if it's possible in the past for unrecorded missing persons to have succumbed to a Nessie attack. Be careful on your next foray to the loch, lest you become a Nessie tasty treat! :-)

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    3. I am back from my night beach foray and am glad to report I emerged unscathed!

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