The loose tiger was spotted late Wednesday night in Knoxville, Tennessee, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
The sheriff’s office said they are working with Knoxville Police, Air Watch, Animal Control and Tiger Haven to rescue a big cat in Kingston.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency said officers saw a different scene near Thorngrove Pike, but have not yet confirmed whether the animal is a tiger.
“A trap has been set up and if the animal is caught, it will be taken to Tiger Haven,” a TWRA spokesman said in an email Thursday morning.
Knoxville Zoo said on Twitter They were not missing any big cats and all tigers are accounted for till Thursday morning.
Tiger Haven did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday, but co-founder Mary Lynn Parker told the Knoxville News Sentinel that her facility is not missing any tigers.
The deputy, who saw the big cat on Wednesday night, said it appeared to be striped and between 150 and 200 pounds, Parker said. Based on the deputy’s description, she said the tiger was “juvenile” and possibly wild, as the big cats were originally said to be “more slender”.
Hunting a tiger is illegal in Tennessee, he said, “but it doesn’t stop anyone.”
There is no current federal law governing big cat ownership in the US, leading to a patchwork of state laws operating on private captivity – an issue that brought global headlines with the release of the Netflix documentary “Tiger King” Was.
Thousands of tigers live in captivity across the US, less than 6 percent live in recognized zoos. Because the majority are held with widely varying standards in attraction of small zoos and animals, animals are often subjected to neglect and abuse.
The issue reached national prominence in 2011, known as the “Zensville Animal Massacre,” when 48 animals, including tigers, lions, and bears, were killed by authorities in Ohio after a private zoo owner let loose Was. Prior to the incident, the Muskingum County Animal Farm was repeatedly reported for inadequate care and unsafe housing for its animals.
Anyone with information or sightings of the missing tiger should contact the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.