Police are hunting the owner of a toy life-size tiger which sparked off a major public safety operation and scare with planned rescues involving armed officers, zoo keeping experts and a force helicopter.
Armed police attended the scene but later realised they were dealing with a toy tiger
The alert was raised by several members of the public on Saturday afternoon when they spotted what they believed to be a live white tiger in a field near Hedge End, Southampton, Hampshire.
The police helicopter was scrambled and a golf course cleared after police arrived at the scene and confirmed the sighting was real.
Armed police were called to the scene in case the “dangerous animal” came too close to members of the public.
Specialist staff from nearby Marwell Zoo also attended to advise and potentially tranquilise the presumed beast.
It’s not often an incident leaves our staff with a smile on their face and it just goes to show the diverse type of incident we are called to deal with.
A local golf course was evacuated and plans were put in place to close the nearby M27 motorway if necessary.
But as police officers carefully approached the “wild animal” they realised it was not moving and the helicopter crew, using thermal imaging equipment, realised there was no heat source coming from it.
A police spokeswoman said: “After a brief stalk through the Hedge End savannah, the officer realised the tiger was not moving and the air support using their cameras realised there was a lack of heat source.
“The tiger then rolled over in the down draft and it was at that point it became obvious it was a stuffed life-size toy.
“This incident will definitely be the highlight of our day. The CCTV footage convinced us all we were dealing with a real tiger.
“It’s not often an incident leaves our staff with a smile on their face and it just goes to show the diverse type of incident we are called to deal with.”
Releasing a photo of the toy tiger, the spokeswoman added: “The toy tiger is life-size and is like one that you would win at a fair.
“It is being treated as lost property but we don’t know how it came to be in the field and whether it may have been a hoax.”
Source: Sky News