(Reuters) - A search was underway in Tennessee after a sheriff’s deputy reported seeing a tiger emerge from a river near a Knoxville industrial park and disappear into the woods, authorities and published reports said on Thursday.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which is taking the lead in the search, said the sighting on Wednesday was unconfirmed, although it has received a second report of a tiger being spotted nearby, TWRA spokesman Matthew Cameron said in an email.
The agency said it did not know where in the area a tiger may have come from but said none of the tigers kept at Zoo Knoxville had escaped.
Authorities have set a trap and would take any animal caught to Tiger Haven, an animal sanctuary located about 30 miles southwest of Knoxville, Cameron said.
Kimberly Glenn, spokesperson for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that the deputy had reported seeing the animal climb out of a river and slip into the woods.
The 2020 Netflix documentary miniseries “Tiger King” focused attention on the private ownership of wild animals, particularly large cats, a practice that is illegal in much of the country.
Tennessee law bans private ownership of lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars and many other wild animals.
Sightings of exotic animals are a relatively common occurrence in the United States, though the reports often go unconfirmed.
TWRA rarely confirms sightings of large cats, Cameron said, although it has found the big cats being kept illegally in the past.
Reporting by Mimi Dwyer; Editing by Alistair Bell
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