France: Big cat on the prowl is not a tiger
Both sites where the tiger or its tracks were seen are about 10 kms from Disneyland Paris
French authorities say a big, wild cat eluding police near Disneyland Paris is not a tiger, but they don't know exactly what it is.
The administration for the Seine-et-Marne region said in a statement Friday that "the presence of an animal of the tiger species is now excluded," based on analysis by government wild animal experts.
The administration announced Thursday that authorities were searching for a tiger on the loose. It said Friday the animal is a feline but they are still trying to determine its species.
Some 200 police, military officers and others are still searching for the animal.
A helicopter buzzed over the woods east of Paris and a dozen police vehicles lined a grassy area where the big cat was spotted early Friday after a day of intense searches failed to capture it.
“He was also seen by truck drivers on the road,” Montevrain Mayor Christian Robache said.
The animal's origins still remain a mystery.
Police officers guarded a school Friday morning as children arrived for class in Montevrain, the French town where the animal was first seen near a parking lot Thursday. Authorities had urged residents in Montevrain and two other towns to remain indoors.
Searchers spotted what wild cat’s tracks in a clearing near the A4 highway between the towns of Bussy-Saint-Georges and Ferrieres-en-Brie, the regional administration said in a statement. It asked drivers to take “the greatest precautions” on the highway, a major artery between Paris and eastern France.
The tracks were found eight kilometers (five miles) from where the wild cat was initially seen, on the other side of the highway, the statement said. An administration official said experts were analyzing the tracks and the search was now concentrated in that area.
Nearby residents were warned to stay in cars instead of walking on foot - and especially to avoid walks in the woods. A Total gas station near the sighting was briefly closed.
Both sites where the tiger or its tracks were seen are about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Disneyland Paris, one of Europe's top tourist destinations. The operator of the theme park says it has no tigers and isn't taking any special precautions because the loose animal isn't deemed a threat. Disneyland Paris is surrounded by high walls to keep out intruders.
A wild cat animal park in the region, the Parc des Felins, said none of its cats is missing.
French tiger trainer Thierry Le Portier told BFM television that if the feline was raised by its mother it would be more distrustful and tougher to catch. Raised by humans, it would be less distrustful but no less dangerous.
“It can remain in hiding for a long time,” he said, adding that it's “no problem” if the cat goes without eating for up to four days.
Some tweets suggested that the tracks belonged to a big dog, not a cat, but the head of the Paris regional Wolfcatcher Society, Robert Picaud, insisted the tracks could not have been falsified.