Residents of a coastal village in the central province of Quang Ngai are living in fear after an unknown animal attacked and killed more than 20 pet dogs at night over the last week.
The attacks, which began on May 6 at the Son Tra fishing village in Binh Son District, have left carcasses of the dogs almost decapitated and their entrails missing.
Villagers say they have heard the roar of the beast from a nearby mountain, and found large footprints (about 12-15 cm diameter) in the sand.
Phan Thi Bich Ngoc, a 70-year-old resident, said she heard the sound of animals whining outside her house, but thought it was her two canine pets fighting.
Later, she found the remains of one of them in the yard, covered with blood, with its head bitten off and its entrails eaten.
Four other families in the village said the same thing happened to their dogs the same night.
Phan Thi Tien, a resident of a nearby village, said she saw the animal passing by her house at dawn four days later. She described the animal as having dark hair, four legs and weighing about 40-50 kilograms.
Cao Tan Son, police chief of Binh Dong Commune, said the prints of the animal looked like it belonged to the cat family.
The Quang Ngai Provincial Forest Protection Department on Wednesday sent a team to the village but they did not find the "beast."
"After studying its prints, I think the animal may be a panther," Nguyen Van Han, department chief, told the Sai Gon Tiep Thi newspaper.
He said he had asked the villagers not to kill the animal if they see it again.
"We should use anesthetic bullets to shoot the animal and later hand it over to a wildlife rescue center," he said.
Local authorities have advised residents not to wander around uninhabited places in the area.