Big cats are in the spotlight at Chideock meeting

Dorset Echo: Merrily Harpur Merrily Harpur

THE prospect of big cats on the prowl in west Dorset will come under the spotlight in Bridport.

Expert Merrily Harpur, below, is giving a talk to the west Dorset group of the Dorset Wildlife Trust titled Big Cats - Wild in Dorset. She will be giving her findings in the illustrated talk at the United Church in East Street on Friday, February 5 at 7.30pm.

Merrily, who lives in Cattistock, has been studying the issue for many years and maintains an active website which records and reports sightings.

She also has two books to her credit on the subject, called Mystery Bug Cats and Roaring Dorset! Encounters with Big Cats. It comes as new figures obtained by the Dorset Echo show a total of 53 people have made emergency calls to report wild cat encounters since 2006.

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 someone called to report a sighting of a large cat which ‘looks like a panther’ in the Powerstock area 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.

Merrily said: “There have been a lot of big cat sightings reported in the county over the years.

“Dorset is a hot spot for big cat sightings. In the last couple of years I have been told of more than 300 sightings. One of the interesting things about big cats in Britain is that they are very variable in their colours.”

Merrily’s talk is open to all and is £2 for DWT members and £3 for visitors. Visit Merrily’s website at dorsetbigcats.org

Comments (14)

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11:53am Sun 7 Oct 12

Hrw-Amen says...

A few years back (About 2004 I’d guess.) on my way home from work I was riding my motorcycle along the coast road from Bridport to Weymouth, just coming into Swyre when a large black cat crossed the road right in front of me seemingly oblivious to the fact that I was about to run into it had I not braked hard. It was a bit of a shock I can tell you. I am not sure what it was exactly but it was quite big. I missed it by inches thankfully coming to a stop just in front of its nose and it ran off. It was about the size of an Alsatian, but the thing I remember most is the sparkling green eyes staring at me as I struggled to avoid hitting it.
A few years back (About 2004 I’d guess.) on my way home from work I was riding my motorcycle along the coast road from Bridport to Weymouth, just coming into Swyre when a large black cat crossed the road right in front of me seemingly oblivious to the fact that I was about to run into it had I not braked hard. It was a bit of a shock I can tell you. I am not sure what it was exactly but it was quite big. I missed it by inches thankfully coming to a stop just in front of its nose and it ran off. It was about the size of an Alsatian, but the thing I remember most is the sparkling green eyes staring at me as I struggled to avoid hitting it. Hrw-Amen
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2:17pm Sun 7 Oct 12

takahashi says...

We spotted one whilst walking our greyhound last summer at Warmwell. Large black (medium dog size) and briskly trotting, being previous cat owners we knew it was a cat. Our greyhound alerted us, but she was not interested to chase.
We spotted one whilst walking our greyhound last summer at Warmwell. Large black (medium dog size) and briskly trotting, being previous cat owners we knew it was a cat. Our greyhound alerted us, but she was not interested to chase. takahashi
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2:55pm Sun 7 Oct 12

bnaty12 says...

Is it someone trying to sell a boo, the Tourist industry in need of some pep or are there really that many bored middle class housewives about?

P.S Elvis has just been in the cafe by the Bus station.
Is it someone trying to sell a boo, the Tourist industry in need of some pep or are there really that many bored middle class housewives about? P.S Elvis has just been in the cafe by the Bus station. bnaty12
  • Score: 0

4:31pm Sun 7 Oct 12

Artstudent says...

Last year I saw what I believe to be a Puma on the coast path between Chickerell and Portesham. It was certainly not a domestic cat as it was the size of a large dog and had entirely no fear of me as I passed by within 20 metres of it.
Last year I saw what I believe to be a Puma on the coast path between Chickerell and Portesham. It was certainly not a domestic cat as it was the size of a large dog and had entirely no fear of me as I passed by within 20 metres of it. Artstudent
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7:37am Mon 8 Oct 12

Polyvista says...

What is a "Bug Cat" ???
What is a "Bug Cat" ??? Polyvista
  • Score: 0

8:54am Mon 8 Oct 12

jmc1 says...

Artstudent wrote:
Last year I saw what I believe to be a Puma on the coast path between Chickerell and Portesham. It was certainly not a domestic cat as it was the size of a large dog and had entirely no fear of me as I passed by within 20 metres of it.
Sounds like a big black dog
[quote][p][bold]Artstudent[/bold] wrote: Last year I saw what I believe to be a Puma on the coast path between Chickerell and Portesham. It was certainly not a domestic cat as it was the size of a large dog and had entirely no fear of me as I passed by within 20 metres of it.[/p][/quote]Sounds like a big black dog jmc1
  • Score: 0

11:09am Mon 8 Oct 12

weymouth1990 says...

sounds like a load of people on LSD.
sounds like a load of people on LSD. weymouth1990
  • Score: 0

11:30am Mon 8 Oct 12

Duckorange says...

I take it Ms Harpur realises that most big cat sightings happen at dusk or in the dark because the human brain loses the ability to judge perspective in lo light levels? I recently saw what I initially thought to be something massive with big spiky teeth, until it slunk out of the shadows and revealed itself as a neighbours's cat that looks a bit like Hitler. Same goes for the risible Essex Lion the other week. Just a fat moggy seen by one panicked bloke at dusk.
I take it Ms Harpur realises that most big cat sightings happen at dusk or in the dark because the human brain loses the ability to judge perspective in lo light levels? I recently saw what I initially thought to be something massive with big spiky teeth, until it slunk out of the shadows and revealed itself as a neighbours's cat that looks a bit like Hitler. Same goes for the risible Essex Lion the other week. Just a fat moggy seen by one panicked bloke at dusk. Duckorange
  • Score: 0

7:34pm Mon 8 Oct 12

Hrw-Amen says...

Well, I am not on LSD and I saw it from about a foot away in good sunny daylight. As I said in my initial post I had to struggle to avoid the thing as it walked out into the road in front of me. It just stopped and looked at me in the way that a lot of animals do when you are riding / driving towards them. I am glad I did not hit it as I am pretty sure hitting something the size of an Alsatian would have had me off my bike. Fortunately neither of us were hurt and the cat just ran off when I stopped. But for a few seconds it was within arms reach. Good job it was not hungry! I did not actually see its teeth though as it had its mouth shut.
Well, I am not on LSD and I saw it from about a foot away in good sunny daylight. As I said in my initial post I had to struggle to avoid the thing as it walked out into the road in front of me. It just stopped and looked at me in the way that a lot of animals do when you are riding / driving towards them. I am glad I did not hit it as I am pretty sure hitting something the size of an Alsatian would have had me off my bike. Fortunately neither of us were hurt and the cat just ran off when I stopped. But for a few seconds it was within arms reach. Good job it was not hungry! I did not actually see its teeth though as it had its mouth shut. Hrw-Amen
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12:28pm Wed 10 Oct 12

DickDastardly says...

magic mushrooms?
magic mushrooms? DickDastardly
  • Score: 0

7:41pm Wed 10 Oct 12

Artstudent says...

jmc1 wrote:
Artstudent wrote:
Last year I saw what I believe to be a Puma on the coast path between Chickerell and Portesham. It was certainly not a domestic cat as it was the size of a large dog and had entirely no fear of me as I passed by within 20 metres of it.
Sounds like a big black dog
Well actually it was sand coloured with a white face and was definitely feline not canine. I'm no big cat expert but I can tell the difference between cats and dogs, even from 20 metres away.
[quote][p][bold]jmc1[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Artstudent[/bold] wrote: Last year I saw what I believe to be a Puma on the coast path between Chickerell and Portesham. It was certainly not a domestic cat as it was the size of a large dog and had entirely no fear of me as I passed by within 20 metres of it.[/p][/quote]Sounds like a big black dog[/p][/quote]Well actually it was sand coloured with a white face and was definitely feline not canine. I'm no big cat expert but I can tell the difference between cats and dogs, even from 20 metres away. Artstudent
  • Score: 0

2:16am Thu 11 Oct 12

takahashi says...

Big cats do exist..they are not a problem...and are seen all over the country..our sighting in Warmwell was genuine and I only mentioned it here as others have reported seeing big cats. Elvis is dead, but big cats live...lol
Big cats do exist..they are not a problem...and are seen all over the country..our sighting in Warmwell was genuine and I only mentioned it here as others have reported seeing big cats. Elvis is dead, but big cats live...lol takahashi
  • Score: 0

8:23pm Thu 11 Oct 12

banknote says...

Can someone answer why the bodies of these supposed "Big Cats" have never been found - probably because they don't exist!

I nearly ran-over Elvis in Weymouth the other day and by the time I got to Dorchester - I saw the Yeti, Adolf Hitler, Bigfoot and Glenn Miller - all shopping together!!

Oh come-on folks.........
Can someone answer why the bodies of these supposed "Big Cats" have never been found - probably because they don't exist! I nearly ran-over Elvis in Weymouth the other day and by the time I got to Dorchester - I saw the Yeti, Adolf Hitler, Bigfoot and Glenn Miller - all shopping together!! Oh come-on folks......... banknote
  • Score: 0

5:13pm Fri 12 Oct 12

speakthe truth says...

dear all
on dec 23rd 2009 when it briefly snowed i was out wild shooting with my labrador when we'put up' a wild cat, within 2metres,the dog was certainly frightened,it was not a particulary large big cat but it was a large as my medium lab and had a larger girth which was particulary memorable and a v thick coat with v thick tail and muscular legs, def not a normal domestic feline.
I have a number of friends working in the countryside who have had close and one v close on foot(whilst tending lambs-&was most frightened) encounters with the larger varieties,predominan
tly black puma description,however,
due to the 'loony' labelling most of these people never come foward.There are now hundreds of wild boar in west dorset but how many people have seen a naturally dead one-v few.
i understand in Glos. county the police have been called out to 2 road traffic accidents involving injured black puma but its only just become public as it was surpressed as not being in the public interest and likely to cause undue alarm to the public.
dear all on dec 23rd 2009 when it briefly snowed i was out wild shooting with my labrador when we'put up' a wild cat, within 2metres,the dog was certainly frightened,it was not a particulary large big cat but it was a large as my medium lab and had a larger girth which was particulary memorable and a v thick coat with v thick tail and muscular legs, def not a normal domestic feline. I have a number of friends working in the countryside who have had close and one v close on foot(whilst tending lambs-&was most frightened) encounters with the larger varieties,predominan tly black puma description,however, due to the 'loony' labelling most of these people never come foward.There are now hundreds of wild boar in west dorset but how many people have seen a naturally dead one-v few. i understand in Glos. county the police have been called out to 2 road traffic accidents involving injured black puma but its only just become public as it was surpressed as not being in the public interest and likely to cause undue alarm to the public. speakthe truth
  • Score: 0

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