THERE are reports that an eagle has been spotted flying around East Dorset.

The Echo has received multiple reports that the giant bird of prey has been spotted in the Bear Cross and Longham areas over the past couple of weeks.

The latest report came from Neil Bullard who said he saw the winged creature fly out of the woodland behind his house in Bear Cross Avenue last Tuesday.

"I was just sat out looking out at some of the deer in the woods at the back of the garden when this huge bird flew out of the trees.

"Straight away I thought it was an eagle. We have a lot of red kites in the area but this was much bigger.

"I know my birds of prey well and this thing was twice the size of a buzzard.

"I'm guessing it has escaped from somewhere."

Nicky Hoar, from Dorset Wildlife Trust, said it would be very unusual to have an eagle flying around Dorset.

"If it was an eagle then I would say that it has probably escaped from somewhere," she added.

"Large birds of prey, like eagles, are often use to scare off seagulls at landfill sites in the area and maybe on this occasion it has not come back to its handler."

Staff at Liberty's Owl Raptor and Reptile Centre in Ringwood said they did not have any escaped eagles - but that they had also been told an eagle had been spotted flying around Longham.

A spokesman for the Dorset Waste Partnership confirmed birds of prey were used to scare off seagulls but said they had not received any reports of escaped eagles.

While seeing an eagle flying around Dorset may be very rare, it has happened in the past.

Back in 2014 a Russian Steppe Eagle escaped twice in just a matter of months and was spotted in Broadstone and Upton.

The giant bird of prey, known as Storm, made the news in June, when he escaped and flew through open doors into the living room of Wendy Morrell and her friend Karen Ruddlesden in Broadstone.

Then two months later in August, the same eagle interrupted a wildlife walk on Upton Heath.

On both occasions it was returned to falconer James Moore, who had been using it to scare off seagulls at the nearby SITA landfill site.

Not normally encountered on Dorset heathland, Russian Steppe Eagles originate from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. They have been known to grow up to 32 inches in height and can have a wingspan of up to seven feet.