WORRIED vegetable growers have drafted in armed guards to protect their allotments from what they suspect is a gigantic rabbit.
Leeks and turnips have been ripped from the ground, while whole rows of onions, parsnips and carrots lie decimated by the creature's rampage through the prize vegetable plots of Felton, Northumberland.
The main clues to the culprit are some oversized pawprints and sightings of a cross between a hare and a rabbit with one ear larger than the other.
A small group of allotment holders have now clubbed together to hire two air-rifle marksmen with orders to shoot to kill.
Jeff Smith, 63, spotted the black and brown animal two months ago. He said: "This is no ordinary rabbit. We are dealing with a monster. The first time I saw it I thought to myself: 'What the hell is that?' I have seen its prints and they are huge. It is a brute of a thing."
Mr Smith, who has kept an allotment for 25 years, said: "We have two lads here with guns, but it is clever. They never see it. There were big rabbits before pesticides were introduced, but not like this."
Five people claim to have seen the giant rabbit. However, animal lovers have urged allotment holders to find a happy ending to the saga.
A spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said: "It seems ridiculous to demonise this animal for doing what it can to survive."