A panther may be on the loose in southwest Scotland, according to police – though a big cat expert cast doubt on the claim.
Ayrshire Police warned members of the public to be vigilant following reports of “a sighting of what is believed to be a black panther in the fields near to the B730” near the villages of Coalhall and Drongan.
The force said in a Facebook post: “Officers are currently working to locate the animal which may be injured.
“The area is popular with dog walkers so care should be taken and if anyone sees the animal we would ask you not to approach it.”
Officers asked anyone with information to call 101 quoting incident number 0780.
The first reported sighting came in at 9.15am on Friday, a Police Scotland spokeswoman said, adding that officers had conducted a search for the big cat using a helicopter.
However, Ayrshire Police issued a further statement on Friday afternoon.
It said: “Officers who have been investigating a number of reports of a large black cat in fields near to the B730 have been liaising with a big cat expert who does not believe that it is a black panther, however cannot yet confirm what type of animal it is.
“Enquiries are still ongoing to establish more information and members of the public are still asked to take care and not approach it if seen.”
Alistair Hill, an animal rescue officer from the Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals, said in a statement: “We can confirm we have received reports regarding a possible panther sighting in Ayr.
“We have liaised with Police Scotland and informed them that we are unequipped to deal with such animals and therefore will not be involved in investigating the incident.”
Black panthers are variants of leopards or jaguars – depending on where in the world they are. A genetic variation called melanism is responsible for their distinctive colouring.
Earlier this year a wolf escaped from a sanctuary in Berkshire, sparking a huge search effort.
Torak was discovered about eight miles from the UK Wolf Conservation Trust in Reading and founder Teresa Palmer helped coax the 12-year-old animal into a trailer.
In that instance pupils at a nearby school were ushered inside until the search was over.
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