From: Dorset Echo
SIGHTINGS of mysterious big cats in Dorset have sparked intense debate in recent years. Many are convinced that here are panthers roaming the countryside while others maintain that with no conclusive proof of their existence that it is highly unlikely they exist in the wild. There have, however, been numerous reported sightings in recent years.
According to figures obtained by the Echo, a total of 53 people have made emergency calls to report their wild cat encounters since 2006. After talk of a lion on the prowl in Essex, the popular subject has resurfaced with Dorset named as a ‘hot spot’ for sightings by big cat experts. Experts claim that most people who spot a big cat do not contact police due to fears of not being taken seriously. The most recent sighting given to police came in February from a caller who claimed to have seen a big cat which was ‘totally black’ and ‘stocky’ with a ‘very long tail’ in Sherford, Wareham. A month earlier an informant called to report a sighting of a large cat which ‘looks like a panther’ in the Powerstock, near Bridport. One caller claimed a ‘lioness’ was seen ‘lying in the grass’ in October 2008 in Sturminster Newton.
While seven callers dialled to warn police after spotting a mysterious creature in the Weymouth area, three people reported sightings from Dorchester during the last five years.
A spokesman for Dorset Police said: “We encourage members of the public to take a common sense approach to any such incidents and to call the police non-emergency number, 101 in the first instance.
“Dorset police urge people use the 999 number in an emergency, when a crime is in progress or life is at risk.”