French police were using a helicopter to search for a young tiger which was said to be on the loose near Disneyland Paris.
The town of Montevrain sent a news alert on its Facebook page saying a young tiger was spotted in the brush behind some tennis courts and a soccer field.
The field is about 9km from the popular theme park.
Town authorities said in a statement that police and rescue squads armed with tranquillisers were on the scene and had roped off a security perimeter.
Authorities also urged residents of three towns — Montevrain, Chessy and Chalifert — to remain indoors and children to remain in their schools, according to a statement from the Seine-et-Marne department.
In addition to the helicopter, police drafted in a wolf-catcher to aid in the search, Seine-et-Marne authorities said.
The animal was also in a car park and shoppers sounded the alert, authorities said.
“We have been running after it since this morning, police officers are trying to intercept it,” a police source said.
Town hall official Cedric Tartaud-Gineste said: “We are calling on inhabitants to be careful, not to leave their houses and to stay in their vehicles.”
“Anyone who sees the tiger should call the police or the fire service,” he added.
One woman saw the animal in a supermarket car park in Montevrain.
“My wife saw it this morning,” said Jean-Baptiste Berdeaux, who manages the Intermarche supermarket.
“She didn’t get out of the car and called me.”
Authorities hoped to catch the animal alive.
“If it’s possible, we’ll try and put it to sleep. If it becomes dangerous or aggressive, the order will be given to kill it,” police said.
EuroDisney, the operator of Disneyland Paris, said it has no tigers in the theme park, so the errant cat could not have come from them.
It wasn’t immediately clear if any extra precautions had been taken inside the park.
Authorities also enquired at a big-cat wildlife park some 30 kilometres away and a circus that recently passed through town.
However, the mayor of Montévrain ruled out the circus theory.
“The circus has been gone since Saturday, and during a health check carried out before, the gendarmes did not see any tigers present,” said a spokesman for the mayor’s office.
Disneyland Paris calls itself Europe’s top tourist destination with 14.9m visits in 2013.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved