By Tim Binnall
A massive search is underway in Knoxville, Tennessee after a sheriff's deputy spotted a tiger roaming around an industrial park. The strange situation reportedly came to light on Wednesday evening when the Knoxville County Sheriff's Office issued a be-on-the-lookout notice about the big cat. In an indication of how serious the sighting is being taken, the department's patrol officers, two different animal control units, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and an Air Watch have been enlisted in the search. The team is also being helped by a local big cat sanctuary, which will take in the tiger if it is found.
As for where the creature could have come from, that question remains a mystery. Upon hearing news of the loose tiger, the Knoxville Zoo did a proverbial big cat head count and assured the public that the animal did not come from their facility. Tiger Haven, the group working with the authorities, also indicated that the wandering feline was not from their organization. There's a possibility that this might be a case of mistaken identity, so to speak, and that the creature could be a cougar, which is native to the region. The other potential origin for the tiger, of course, is that it was an illegal pet that somehow escaped.
Regardless of the tiger's origin, authorities understandably are more interested in its whereabouts at this time and say that they have now received additional reports from residents claiming to have seen the creature, suggesting that sighting by the sheriff's deputy was not a one-off incident. In addition to the sizeable search effort, they have also gone so far as to set a humane trap, which uses a rotisserie chicken as bait, in the hopes of potentially luring the big cat out of hiding. Given the resources that have been harnessed to look for the creature, one hopes that it is only a matter of time before someone participating in the search comes across the animal rather than an unwitting resident unprepared for such an encounter.