On the prowl: Deputies, soldiers search for Bengal tiger spotted on Louisiana Army base

Wednesday, September 1st 2004, 10:58 am
By: News On 6

FORT POLK, La. (AP) _ A Bengal tiger on the loose in the thick brush surrounding an Army base is winning a game of hide and seek.

About 40 soldiers and sheriff's deputies searched the woods in Fort Polk for a second day Wednesday.

It was unclear where the animal came from, but it's likely that it was a pet that escaped or was set free, said Leslie Whitt, director of the Alexandria Zoo, who assisted in the search. Several witnesses said the animal was wearing a collar.

Scott Heinrich, a consultant who was brought in to track the tiger, said he and others scanned the woods from a helicopter Tuesday but did not see the tiger. They continued their search on the ground, he said.

Based on witness descriptions, the tiger is probably about 100 pounds and a year old, Whitt said.

``It probably has no experience whatsoever in killing anything, catching it and eating it,'' Whitt said. ``It's probably just freaked out and looking for a way back to where it belongs.''

Heinrich said he was armed with a dart gun and would try to tranquilize the animal.

The tiger was first spotted Friday near a Fort Polk gas station by Robert McElroy, who is retired from the Army. McElroy said he first thought it was a bobcat, but then recognized it as a tiger and saw its collar.

McElroy said he immediately reported it to military police.

``At first I didn't believe it, and I am not sure if they did, but they did call for someone to come and look for it,'' McElroy said.