Some say it resembles a prowling hyena, others a ferocious wolf.
While there are those who have seen the mysterious creature menacing Buckshaw Village and describe it as a terrifying cross between a wild boar and some kind of big cat.
Whatever it is, it has been blamed for mauling several deer to death, and one resident’s Alsatian dogs were left quivering with fear after a particularly close encounter.
Now one intrepid villager has taken a photograph of what locals have dubbed the Buckshaw Beast, sparking a feverish online debate about what exactly it might be.
Residents of the ‘village’ – actually a modern estate on the edge of Leyland, Lancashire – have been reporting sightings of the shaggy, hulking creature for months.
The initial consensus was that it is a wild boar forced out of the countryside by the cold weather as it strives to find food, but experts have said one would be unlikely to kill deer.
Resident Tony Kenvig caught sight of the beast as it rifled through his bins late one night, and described it as resembling a dark-coloured hyena.
‘All the rubbish was strewn over my garden,’ he wrote in an online forum.
‘This happened on a few occasions, and one night I heard snuffles and looked out of my window and saw some kind of hyena standing rigid on its back legs.’
Another, calling himself Shelley Levene, also disturbed it late one night.
‘I’ve seen it too,’ he wrote. ‘It’s not a dog. I have two Alsatians, both ex-police dogs. I saw it going through my bins.
‘I couldn’t understand why they weren’t barking, so I went down to investigate and they were shaking and cowering in their kennel.
‘Just the scent of this thing must have been enough to spook them.’
He warned fellow villagers to be on their guard.
‘I no longer walk the streets of Buckshaw alone at night anymore and would advise all other residents to start to be vigilant.
‘This beast in dangerous.’ If it is a wild boar, it would not be the first driven into built-up areas by the recent big freeze – last week the Daily Mail told how two had been spotted rooting through rubbish bins in the similarly-named Buckshaft in the Forest of Dean.
But another concerned local resident, John Russell, managed to photograph the beast using his camera phone, and he is convinced it is some kind of carnivore, blaming it for the deaths of three deer savaged on nearby parkland.
‘I can’t work out what it is,’ he wrote on the forum.
‘This was no boar. I saw it move and it had a feline movement. They say it’s to blame for the recent deer slayings.’
Whether there really is a savage beast marauding through the village, or if it is a case of mistaken identity or even an elaborate hoax remains to be seen, although local police have received no calls about it.
And Chris Bailey, from nearby Chipping Wild Boar Park, said that while it was possible that a hungry boar would attack a deer, it was unlikely.
‘There is lots of countryside around there that they could go into, so it is possible,’ he said. ‘But I’m surprised. I have heard of cases like this before – but only when they are very hungry and looking for food.’
After examining the picture, Mr Bailey said the animal’s features did not appear to match those of a wild boar.
‘Unfortunately, the picture isn’t too clear, but from what we can see, the nose seems shorter and the back legs are different. They look similar to that of a dog.’