Dog owners are on high alert in Dartmoor after claims by a local farmer that his border collie was eaten by a giant false widow spider.
Alleged sightings of a large black eight legged beast around Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor have been reported to police over the past few months, but until now, they have been dismissed as local folklore and superstition.
In a statement the farmer, who does not wish to be named for fear of being sectioned, said, “I was walking old Bess up by Hound Tor when I hears a great yelp. I looks around and there’s this great spider carrying her off into the woods. She was gone in a flash.”
A posse of local villagers carrying burning torches undertook a search of the area but found no trace of the dog. However two unsuspecting American tourists, Daniel and Florence Taft from Maryland Virginia, were discovered on High Tor and lynched in the ensuing melee. Villagers have since described the incident as unfortunate "collateral damage.”
Dartmoor National Park warden, Henry Baskerville, has come forward with his own interpretation of events. “With them eight legs in mind, this could be two big black cats working together. Possibly panthers or a pair of rare Siamese crosses.”
Other explanations range from ‘too much scrumpy’ to gangs of renegade badgers in revenge attacks on farmers.
Tourism chief, Mary Yelland offered what she hoped would be a more logical explanation. “Moorland pixies must have cast a spell on a black Dartmoor pony turning it into a large arachnid. We are currently working the story into a range of tea towels, key rings and mugs which will go on sale next year.”
In the meantime the public are being urged to stay calm and remain vigilant. A spokesman from Defra said, “We hope this won’t stop people enjoying the countryside. Being attacked and eaten by a large black spider is an extremely rare occurrence, the biggest threat to the public at the moment is from an outbreak of Countryfile presenters.”