France: Big cat on the prowl is not a tiger

Milos Krivokapic
Associated Press

Montevrain, France — A two-day search by some 200 French police and members of the armed forces for a wild cat roaming through towns and across a major highway came to one conclusion Friday: It isn’t a tiger.

The wild cat caught in several fuzzy photographs in the town of Montevrain was spotted again Friday morning by truckers on a main route between Paris and eastern France.

But in a statement late Friday, the regional administration near the search site said experts have concluded that the wandering animal isn’t a tiger, but a feline of an unknown species. France’s national hunting office could not be reached for comment.

One theory is that the mystery cat could be a lynx — the wild cat once common in France before being hunted out of existence. It was reintroduced in France in the 1970s, according to the wildlife group Ferus.

But the nearest known lynx habitat, the Vosges Mountains, is 215 miles away from where the cat was first spotted Thursday.

Residents of Montevrain and two other towns were urged to stay indoors — but most people seemed to be taking the big cat hunt in stride, even as a helicopter buzzed over woods east of Paris.

“He was also seen by truck drivers on the road,” said Christian Robache, the mayor of Montevrain. A Total gas station near the sighting was briefly closed, and police officers guarded a local school Friday as children arrived for class.

But the operator of Disneyland Paris, one of Europe’s top tourist destinations, said it wasn’t taking any special precautions because the animal isn’t deemed a threat. The theme park in the region is surrounded by a large wall.