A ‘big cat’ has been spotted roaming West Dorset.

A lorry driver on his way to Bridport claims to have seen a ‘large black panther’ on the prowl in a field.

Kevin Paul Fillary, 42, says he spotted the creature as he was travelling on the A35 near Monkey’s Jump roundabout at around 3.30pm.

Sightings of mysterious big cats in Dorset have sparked intense debate in recent years.

Many are convinced that there are panthers roaming the countryside, while others maintain that with no conclusive proof of their existence it is highly unlikely they exist in the wild. Mr Fillary, of Somerset, said: “I was driving along and I looked to my left and spotted a large black panther.

“When I’m in my lorry I’m high up so I could see over into the field and I could see the creature clearly.

“I travel down that road every working day and have done for the past four years but this is the first time I’ve seen a big cat.”

He added: “I just wish I’d had time to take a photo but I was driving and had to move on.”

The lorry driver, who works for C&D Transport, said it is not the first time he has spotted a big cat.

He added: “I’ve spotted one before in Ilminster, so this was my second sighting.

“I told my family and they believe me, but I didn’t tell anyone at work in case they thought I was mad.

“I am convinced that they exist in Dorset after people who kept them as pets years ago let them out into the wild.”

There have been numerous reported sightings in recent years. Figures suggest that some 53 people made emergency calls to report their wild cat encounters since 2006. After talk of a lion on the prowl in Essex, the popular subject resurfaced with Dorset named as a ‘hot spot’ for sightings by big cat experts. Big cat researcher and author Merrily Harpur 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 ten years I have been told of more than 600 sightings.

“One of the interesting things about big cats in Britain is that they are very variable in their colours.

“Most of the sightings report a black cat but quite a few say they resemble a panther-like creature or are brown like a puma or the colour of a Scottish wild cat.

“Anyone who glimpses these creatures for more than a few seconds is very lucky and I would urge people in that area to carry a camera.”

Exotic pets
STORIES abound of big cats in 1960s and 1970s when it was legal and fashionable to keep exotic animals as pets.
Before the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in 1976, the wealthy could take their lion, tiger or cheetah for a walk around the park without needing a licence. But the law was changed to protect the public and animals.
While many owners gave their pets to zoos or put them down rumours started that some were  released into the wild where their offspring are thought to still roam to this day.