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This article was published 23/5/2011 (3340 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
LONDON -- Police scrambled helicopters and ordered tranquilizers to hunt what they feared was an escaped wild animal in southern England -- but found that the tiger was a toy.
Hampshire Police say they responded after several residents called in to say they'd seen a white tiger in a field near a golf course in Hedge End, near the English coastal city of Southampton.
The Guardian reported on its website one of the callers had examined the predator through the zoom lens of his camera and was convinced the animal was real.
A police officer was dispatched to the field to investigate and reported seeing a tiger lurking in the grass.
Several more officers were sent to the field and air support called in, but not before a nearby zoo was contacted by police.
"They gave us the option to dart and tranquillize the animal rather than destroy it," a police spokeswoman told the Guardian, adding officers cleared a nearby golf course and were prepared to close a motorway should the tiger make a run for it. "...The officer realized the tiger was not moving and the air support using their cameras realized 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."
Police have been unable to find the owner of the toy or determine how it got in the field.
The stuffed animal is now simply being treated as lost property, the BBC reported.
A tongue-in-cheek recorded message posted to the force's media line said that after "a brief stalk through the Hedge End savannah... it became obvious that the tiger was a stuffed, life-sized toy."
A second message posted on Sunday emphasized police had a duty to take such sightings seriously.
-- from the news services
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