French authorities searching for a mysterious big cat spotted prowling around a town on the outskirts of Paris have revealed it is unlikely to be a tiger as initially suspected.
After examining tracks, experts from the national hunting and wildlife office and a nearby big cat park said: “We can exclude the presence of an animal from the tiger species.”
They added though that “the feline is still being hunted”.
The appearance of the furtive animal had gripped France and authorities had initially scrambled police, soldiers and a helicopter with thermal imaging equipment to find the beast.
A dog trained in tracking bears and large game was even brought in to help with the search.
But the threat level appeared to be downgraded on Friday, with the local director of public safety, Chantal Baccanini, saying there was “no danger for the general population”.
“It’s between a domestic cat and a bigger feline,” said Eric Hansen from the national hunting office ONCFS.
For this reason, the searches were “reduced” to just a “security team” looking for the animal in the urban area of Montevrain, some 40km east of Paris, next to the Disneyland Paris theme park.
The story had generated wall-to-wall coverage in France on rolling news channels. Local paper Le Parisien splashed a picture of the animal on its front page with the headline: “The unbelievable tiger alert.”
Despite deploying around 100 police, firefighters and soldiers immediately after the sightings, the search proved fruitless. Torrential rain hampered the scaled-down hunt later Friday.
A local woman sounded the alarm early on Thursday after spotting the animal in the supermarket car park.
Several more people later came forward saying they had seen a “tiger” on the prowl.