The shooting and killing of an escaped lynx "was long overdue" given the danger to people and livestock, the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) has said.
Releasing a picture of seven sheep believed to have been killed by Lillith, who had been missing from Borth Wild Animal Kingdom near Aberystwyth since October 29, the FUW defended Ceredigion Council's decision that it should be killed after it "strayed over to a populated area of the community".
Lillith, who was an 18-month-old Eurasian lynx and twice the size of a domestic cat, was killed on Friday night after the local authority received advice from a specialist veterinary surgeon that the risk to public well-being had increased from moderate to severe.
Park staff said that the animal did not pose a threat to humans and were "devastated and outraged" by what had happened.
Seven dead sheep who were believed to have been killed by an escaped lynx. Picture: Farmers' Union of Wales/PA
But a spokesman for the FUW said the escaped animal was suspected to have killed seven sheep within a few hundred yards of Borth in Ceredigion, west Wales.
"In an ideal world the lynx would have been quickly recaptured, but this did not happen," he said.
"Given the risk to people and livestock, action to remove such a danger was long overdue.
"Had the animal not been allowed to escape in the first place, this situation would not have arisen, and it seems a number of our member's livestock would not have been attacked and killed."
The FUW said it had written to the Welsh Government and the local Police Commissioner last week to express its concerns that the danger the animal posed was not being taken seriously.
"Despite being around the size of a sheepdog, an animal like this will routinely kill animals much bigger than itself, and the fact it was used to humans increased the risk it posed to the public," said the FUW spokesman.
"Some have already expressed their outrage over the shooting, but the public reaction would have been far greater had the animal attacked an adult or child, as has happened elsewhere."
Ceredigion Council said the decision had been taken to humanely destroy the wild animal after the risk it posed to the public increased to "severe" following failed attempts to recapture it.
A statement shared by Aberystwyth central councillor Ceredig Davies on Facebook said: "Despite exhaustive multi agency efforts to recapture the class A animal, the multi-agency group responding to the incident received additional advice late on Friday afternoon, 10 November, from a specialist veterinary surgeon that the risk to public well-being had increased from moderate to severe due to the continued failure of the Wild Animal Kingdom to recapture the Lynx.
"The safety of the public was paramount and therefore once the Lynx had strayed over to a populated area of the community it was necessary to act decisively."
The FUW also questioned plans to reintroduce lynx in the Kielder Forest region of Northumberland after it was announced in July that the Lynx UK Trust had submitted an application to reintroduce six of the animals on a trial basis.
The trust said there are no recordings of attacks on humans by healthy, wild Eurasianlynx anywhere in the world.
It also says the animals have a very low impact on livestock, with lynx in Europe killing, on average, less than one sheep every two years.
The FUW said the incident with Lillith "should come as a stark warning".
"It is no coincidence that the places targeted for campaigns to release lynxes are remote rural areas, and claims their impacts on livestock are negligible are not borne out by the evidence from the continent," the spokesman said.
Tracy Tweedy, who owns Borth Wild Animal Kingdom, said she thought it was "highly unlikely" that Lillith had killed the sheep.
She said she understood a post-mortem examination had been carried out on one of the dead sheep and that the results were inconclusive, with the results of blood tests not yet having come back.
"In my opinion it is highly unlikely (that she killed them), for several reasons," she said.
"One of the main reasons is, had that happened, bear in mind it would have to have happened within the first couple of days of her leaving here, because when the farmer found them (the sheep) on the 31st they had already been dead for a few days.
"So she must have literally got out and killed them, and then when you think of that, and then she was missing for a further two weeks and not a single sheep (has been killed), in an area where we are literally surrounded by sheep.
"She would have had ample opportunity to demolish half the sheep in Wales if she was killing seven in a night.
"I'm not making light of it, the farmer has lost his sheep somehow.
"If it turns out it is our lynx, then obviously he will be fully compensated for that, but I can't see how it can be."
Ms Tweedy added that their lynx had never hunted large prey.
See full story in the County Times