Paris: French policemen armed with tranquiliser guns patrolled a small town west of the capital Thursday night after a tiger eluded a massive search and remained on the prowl in the region near Disneyland Paris.
The small beast was spotted Thursday morning near a parking lot in Montevrain by a woman who snapped a photo of it.
Still on the loose by nightfall, some began to doubt whether it really was a tiger.
Scores of French police assisted by a helicopter resumed the search for a tiger on the loose near Paris Friday, as authorities ordered residents to stay home.
Nearly 200 police, gendarmes, rescuers with tranquilising guns and a specially trained dog searched the area.. Authorities urged people in Montevrain, nearby Chessy and Chalifert to stay indoors, and children were escorted home from school.
Montevrain sent out a news alert on its Facebook page Thursday, saying a young tiger was spotted in the brush behind tennis courts and a soccer field about 9 kilometers (5 1/2 miles) from Disneyland Paris.
However, officials at the theme park, which calls itself Europe's No. 1 tourist destination, said no special precautions were taken Thursday inside the park because the loose animal wasn't deemed a threat.
A dozen or so soldiers from a nearby army base prepared to join the hunt for the fearsome beast which has eluded all attempts at capture since being spotted prowling around a supermarket car park on Thursday morning.
A chopper equipped with thermal imaging equipment circled over the search zone, a wooded area near the small town of Montevrain, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of Paris.
And police guarded the entrance to schools as children arrived on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, authorities were still scratching their heads as to where the tiger could have come from.
Montevrain is a stone`s throw from the popular Disneyland Paris but owners insist that tigers are not among the theme park`s attractions.
Authorities have also made enquiries at a big-cat wildlife park 30 kilometres away.
Suspicion initially fell on a circus that had set up its big top in the supermarket car park a few days ago, but town mayor Christian Robache said it "did not have a tiger". A local woman sounded the alarm early on Thursday morning after spotting the animal in the supermarket car park.
Several more people later came forward saying they had seen the tiger on the prowl.
Authorities ordered residents to stay indoors and use cars to pick their children up from school.
A source close to the search operation said the hunt for any tiger would be made more difficult because if the big cat behaved in typical fashion, it would nap a lot, possibly spending hours unnoticed sleeping in a tree.
The PETA animal rights group called on authorities to "show restraint and compassion in dealing with this tiger on the loose".
"This situation, however upsetting, is entirely preventable and should serve as a wake-up call to the public about the perils of keeping wild animals in captivity," the group told AFP in a statement.
(With Agency inputs)