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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Warning after 'big cat' sighting
Contrary to popular opinion pumas are not black
Holidaymakers in Dorset are being warned to dial 999 if they see a big cat-like creature following a number of sightings across the county.

Pc John Snellin, wildlife officer for Dorset Police, has advised people not to approach them or corner them, especially if they are injured.

His warning comes after Wiltshire salesman Kevin Hamersley claimed he saw a puma in West Cliff Road, Bournemouth.

Pc Snellin said there were 30 reported big cat sightings in Dorset every year.

Certainly, if they are injured or cornered, don't go near them, and call the police
PC John Snellin, wildlife officer for Dorset Police

He advised: "If you did see one, 99.9 times out of 100 they are just going to run away, but don't approach them or corner them.

"Certainly, if they are injured or cornered don't go near them and call the police.

"We have various contingency plans if one does appear."

He said a woman, who works in the control room at Dorset Police, had also reported hearing a "growling noise" from inside bushes on Canford Heath in Poole, as she walked with her mother on 20 August at 2000 BST.

Pc Snellin added: "A loud roar like a big cat came from the bushes.

On the prowl

"They decided to run for it and as they ran off they heard another roar. She was a bit shook up."

Her report followed an earlier one from 24-year-old Mr Hamersley who had been celebrating a friend's 21st birthday when he claimed to have spotted a puma or lynx prowling near his hotel.

The car spares salesman said had been walking back to his hotel with his friends after having a couple of drinks, when he saw the 2ft (0.6m) tall cat standing in the middle of the road at 0430 BST.

"It was as big as a dog, but it wasn't a dog," explained Mr Hamersley, who is from Devizes.

Black panther sighting

"It stopped in the middle of the road and looked at us for about two or three minutes.

"We were just trying to work out what it was and it just stood there frozen, looking at us, before it turned around and ran off.

"I thought it might be a puma. I watch a lot of wildlife programmes so I know my big cats.

"I don't think they would attack humans unless you provoked them but they are meat eaters so I didn't hang around.

"I didn't want to get gashed by its big claws.

"I'm now convinced there's either a puma or a lynx on the loose in Bournemouth."

During another incident, a scaffolding company worker reported defending himself with a large piece of wood after sighting a black panther at an industrial estate near Bournemouth International Airport on 14 August.


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