Voices is the Dorset Echo's weekly youth page - written for young people by young people.

This week Phoebe wonders whether big cats could be found in our county.

People believe big cats, such as leopards, panthers or pumas, are roaming the Dorset countryside and going undetected. Apparently, due to the high deer population, Dorset is the perfect place for big cats to live.

However, how is this possible? Surely, if there were lots of big cats we would have more evidence.

Jonathan McGowan, a Bournemouth-based wildlife expert, believes that big-cats are definitely present in the county's countryside.

He claims to have collected evidence over the past 30 years, such as big cat paw prints, faeces, tree markings and fur samples.

He has also discovered ‘scats’ (mysterious droppings) containing things like animal fur, feathers and bones which could be from other animals and not big cats.

McGowan believes that there are around 30 leopards in Dorset (there are roughly between 12,000 to 14,000 leopards in the world). So could the presence of such large predators and lots of livestock make Dorset unsafe?

If big cats are roaming Dorset, wouldn’t we have more scientists and animal experts in the area?

I think that if big cats were roaming Dorset we would have more reports from farmers and there would be more evidence to prove it.

However, as a county we are very fond of our legends and our 'big cats' can still be added it to our list of Dorset myths.

By Phoebe Damen-Grant