ARE they just urban myths or could there really be creatures as exotic as black panthers and pumas roaming our countryside?

Some say it’s nonsense but reported sightings of big cats in Dorset have been high for many years.

Hundreds of reports vary from a black panther-like creature climbing a tree to a beast the size of an Alsatian in a back garden.

Here are a few from the archives – could they still be out there?

Alum Chime - March 2008

A Bournemouth woman claimed she had a scary encounter with a big cat the size of an Alsatian in her back garden.

Pam Skilton, from Alum Chime, went into her garden at 3am to let her elderly dog use the toilet.


Pic by Sally Adams 18/3/08 bIgcat2 Pam Skilton with her dog Sadie in her garden where she saw the big cat.

Pam Skilton with her dog Sadie in her garden where she saw the 'big cat'.


But walking along the wall towards her, she says she saw a creature with thick, black fur and a pointed nose.

"It didn't look like a cat because it had a pointed face," said Pam.

"But it was too big to be a fox.

"I have never seen anything like it.


Pic by Sally Adams 18/3/08 bIgcat3 Pam Skilton with her dog Sadie in her garden where she saw the big cat.

 Pam Skilton with her dog Sadie.


"I was literally eight feet away. It was illuminated by a streetlight.

"I clapped my hands and it ran away.

"It had a distinctive white point to its tail.

"My dog is old and nearly blind and she just woofed a bit."

Big cat expert Merrily Harpur, from Frampton, said: "Judging by the colour and size it does not sound like a fox - certainly not with black fur, though they do sometimes have a white tip.

"It's a mystery because, like a lot of sightings, this woman got a good look at it and it's a person used to seeing wildlife.

"We get a lot of sightings in the Bournemouth and Christchurch area."

Wareham - June 2010

A man claimed he saw a big cat prowling Wareham Forest.

Lytchett Matravers man Daniel Green says he saw the puma-like creature crossing the Bere Regis Road as he drove from Holton Heath one morning.

Daniel said: “As I went through Wareham Forest I saw this big, black cat cross the road about 200-yards in front of me.

“It had a long tail. I stopped the van to try and get a picture of it, but it went through into the thick gorse. I know what I saw, it was a lot bigger than any domestic cat.”


Pic Hattie Miles ... 07.02.11 ... pWarehamFor ... Stephanie Legg walking in Wareham Forest. Stephanie has established a campaign to fight the government sell off of woodland and forests.

Wareham Forest.


Earlier that year, residents at Upwey said they had seen a black ‘puma-shaped’ animal in fields – and in January a lamb was savaged at Bockhampton.

Afterwards a vet confirmed the injuries were more consistent with an attack by a cat and unlike those caused by dogs, foxes or badgers.

A dog walker also reported seeing a large black cat in Puddletown.

Fordingbridge (Hampshire) - November 2016

Martin Hill of Hyperion, Stuckton, Fordingbridge wrote a letter to the Echo that read:

“While walking east on the footpath along Grim’s Ditch (I was near Sturton Hatch and a little more than a mile north-west of Grovely Farm) on the north side of the woodland overlooking the Wylye Valley on a sunny afternoon in late March last year, I looked back and saw a big black cat at the edge of the wood close to where I’d just been walking; it was a little over 100 yards away.

“After about two seconds it saw me, turned around and bounded back into the woods.

“I realised at the time it had to be a black panther.

“According to the internet, there have been several black panther sightings on the Brendan Hills 123 miles away and many other big cat sightings around the country.”

Westbourne - July 2018

Police were called to a leafy Bournemouth road after reports that a panther had been spotted.

They sent a dog unit to Brunstead Road in Westbourne after Darren Jenner saw the big cat walk down the road before climbing into a tree.


Darren Jenner

Darren Jenner.


The same creature had been spotted nearly a month earlier in the garden of a nearby property and the owner, Rachael Mould, took pictures and a video.

Darren told the Daily Echo: “Rachael had shown us the video a month ago and I’d forgotten all about it until I saw it walking across the road. It came from a driveway opposite and it was obvious it wasn’t a domestic cat. It was huge with a big head and a thick tail nearly as long as its body.

“It looked like something you’d see in a zoo and I was so shocked I didn’t want to move to get my phone out of my pocket. I was absolutely gobsmacked.”

Rachael added: “When I saw it in my garden it was the size of a large fox and it was a glossy, black colour. It didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen before. I’m the sort of person who is really sceptical about everything so I’m certain it wasn’t a domestic cat.”


A still taken from a video submitted by Rachael Mould of a large cat in her garden in Branksome.

A still taken from a video submitted by Rachael Mould of a large cat in her garden in Branksome.


Darren’s wife, Amanda, said the story sounded unusual and added: “I know it sounds ridiculous but both Darren and Rachael are intelligent people and they know what they saw.”

She added: “As soon as I put something on Facebook people started putting pictures of the Pink Panther up and asking if we’d been drinking too much wine.

“I realise some people will find it funny but there’s a serious side to this. There are a lot of domestic pets and children in this area and they could be at risk.”

Amanda said she called the RSPCA first but was told there was nothing they could do. She then contacted police.

“A very nice officer arrived from the dog unit but he decided not to get the Alsatian out of the back of the car” she said.

A police spokesman said a report was received just after 8pm on Tuesday and added: “We did attend and a search of the area was carried out, but nothing was located. Advice was given to contact the RSPCA if another sighting took place.


Jonathan McGowan

Jonathan McGowan.


Big cat expert Jonathan McGowan from Southbourne told the Echo at the time: "There are around 30 leopards in Dorset alone because it has such a high deer population.

"Most of the big cats are very shy and keep out of the way because they want to remain undetected."