Police are still looking for an escaped mountain lion in France, and they have permission to shoot the animal when they spot him. A petition created to save the puma’s life has been signed more than 50,000 times.
For over a week, police have been searching northern France after several sightings were reported of a big feline on the loose in the Pas-de-Calais region.
French media reports have described the animal as a mountain lion, also known as cougar, panther or puma, but it is not exactly clear what species the animal is or where he escaped from.
The prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais region said in a statement: “No person or organization has contacted the authorities to report the disappearance of an animal of this kind. We, therefore, have no information on his age, his temperament or how he might react to contact with humans.”
Police and wildlife specialists have found tracks of the big cat, but the animal has not yet been found. Since the owner did not come forward, authorities have been given permission to shoot the puma on sight.
Following the decision to kill the animal, more than 50,000 people have signed a petition calling for “justice and respect” for the puma.
“It’s a safe bet that it was the result of wildlife trafficking and that his possession by an individual was illegal,” animal welfare organization Free Life said in an online statement, adding that the animal is not native to France. They disagree with the decision to kill the animal and offer to help capture the mountain lion.
“Like lynx in France, pumas prefer to flee from men rather than go to meet them,” they said, adding that in this case, the puma had been on the loose for over a week without attacking a human, pet or farm animal.
“Let us not forget that this puma is domesticated. He never learned to feed himself. And if, to date, no damage has been done, is it because the animal does not have the means? Was he declawed, as is often the case with wild animals held by individuals? Is he toothless?” they wondered.
Instead of killing the animal, authorities should be concerned for his well-being, according to Free Life. They don’t deny that the animal could be dangerous, but the puma should be put to sleep when spotted and brought to a sanctuary instead of being killed.
“Let us try to mobilize the police, scientists and hunters – without rifles – who know the region so well. Let’s follow the trail of this big cat and try to capture him alive,” they pleaded.
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