THE mystery surrounding the identity of a large rodent-like creature seen tottering through Totteridge continues as further sightings are reported.
According to around ten separate witnesses, one or more capybaras are on the loose in the area and hiding in woodland and farmland around the borough.
The 140lb creature, known to be the largest living rodent in the world, is native to South America and very rarely seen in English countryside.
The most recent sighting was made by Dan Mackessy, 43, of Friern Park, North Finchley, who believes he heard two of the creatures beneath his bedroom window a fortnight ago.
He said: "I heard squealing outside, which sounded like a rat or a fox, and when I looked I saw two little brown animals.
"They were definitely not rats or foxes, but as soon as I put my head out, they scampered off behind the flat.
"I think it might have been a couple of capybaras."
Steve Wells, of Galley Lane, Barnet, believes he and his wife saw a capybara around a month ago.
He said: "I saw what I thought to be a deer about a month ago while driving through Trotters Bottom to Galley Lane.
"It came from the golf course before the A1 junction and disappeared very quickly.
"Then, on Friday, October 2, at around 8.30pm I was returning from St Albans with my wife Mariella when it ran out into the same piece of road, but then quickly ran off.
"After reading about other sightings in the Times Series, we both realised it was in fact a capybara."
However, naturalist John Colman, 61, of Grange Avenue, North Finchley, believes the alleged capybara is in fact a deer after all.
He said: "The muntjac deer is a very small deer and, incidentally, almost exactly the same size as a capybara.
"They are generally very shy so, although now quite widespread, they are not encountered that often.
"All naturalists know from experience not to dismiss reports of unusual animals or birds out of hand, but I would be very surprised indeed if the majority of these sightings were not attributable to muntjacs."
Capybaras can grow to 4.5ft long and 1.5ft tall, and weigh from 59lb to 174lb pounds. They have long, coarse, reddish-brown hair, no tail, short limbs, a barrel-shaped body and webbed feet with strong claws.
They are most active at dusk and dawn, and communicate using whistles, whimpers, clicking noises and barks.
What do you think? Have you spotted a capybara scampering across fields near you - or was it merely an overweight deer?
Please send all comments to Rebecca Lowe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07795 305271.