The Fen Tiger is on the prowl again, through the local newspapers at any rate. The tiger is actually (or supposedly) a black panther, and has been spotted seemingly on dozens of occasions since the early 1980s.
Panthers have a lifespan of roughly twelve years in the wild and twenty or so in captivity. I do not know whether making your living mauling sheep in the Fens counts as living wild or living captive; either way, however, the extraordinary longevity of the Fen Tiger is testament not to the fatness of the sheep hereabouts but to the general durability both of myth and of mass hysteria (or profound boredom) in isolated communities.
That said, if you were to meet a tiger (sic) on the Fens, what you would want about your person would be a punt gun. The punt is a traditional fenland boat, low bottomed and ideal for the pushing about stealthily in the shallow waters. Ideal, also, to hunt from – not big cats, perhaps, but water fowl. You can drift silently along until you come across some birds dawdling on the water, and then you let off your colossal punt gun.
The punt gun is not a rifle exactly, it is more like artillery. Immensely long and heavy, you would balance it along the length of the punt, its muzzle crammed like a blunderbuss with shot of some sort (old nails perhaps, bolts, bits of crockery, tigers’ teeth); and when it went off (once in a generation), it would no doubt slaughter every bird within a five-hundred-yard radius. You would have weeks of work just scooping up the carcasses.
Just the thing, then, for the indiscriminate extermination of myths, tigers, vulnerable aquatic fowl and the odd local reporter. I am in favour of regular patrols.