Chinese villagers are searching for a mysterious bloodsucking predator that has killed more than 200 chickens and ducks, mainland media reports.

For the past week police and residents from the village

in Pudong, close to the city of Shanghai, have been hunting for the culprit round the clock, the news portal reported on Saturday.

The predator has left behind just one tantalising clue – a muddy webbed four-toed footprint.

Villagers said the footprint was the size of five-year-old child’s hand.

The unidentified predator has only sucked on the blood of its prey, rather than feeding on its meat, the report said.

Residents said many of their birds had died after being bitten during the evenings over the past week. Some rabbits that had been raised by farmers in the village had also died in the same way, the report said.

Villagers suspect the predator killing their animals has escaped from Shanghai Wild Animal Park, which lies about 2km from the village.

However, officials from the park told mainland media that none of its animals had gone missing recently.

Experts from the park have tried to help farmers catch the predator by making an iron cage, and luring it by handing live chickens left inside, but so far they have been unsuccessful.

The large number of animals killed by the predator has led to local police and villagers carrying out nighttime inspections of local livestock.

Internet users have questioned what the authorities were doing with the carcasses of the dead poultry and were concerned that they might end up being sold in local markets.