A lynx that escaped from Dartmoor Zoo has been spotted on farmland outside the boundary of the park, police have confirmed.
Locals near the Plymouth zoo from where the wildcat escaped on Thursday were warned not to approach the predator and dial 999.
Flaviu, a two-year-old Carpathian lynx, arrived at Dartmoor Zoological Park, Devon, from Port Lympne in Kent on Wednesday (local time).
But on Thursday morning keepers arrived at his house to find the lynx – a similar size to a Labrador – had chewed through a board in the wall.
Thirty members of staff and volunteers began combing the zoo but found no trace of the carnivore, concluding that he had left the park.
Children from a local nursery were kept indoors while a search involving a police helicopter took place.
Search teams were organised in the local area, while humane traps were baited with various types of meat.
When darkness fell police launched a drone carrying a thermal imaging camera near the zoo in the hope they would spot the wildcat.
A photo shared by Devon and Cornwall Police’s drone unit showed the pilot monitoring what appeared to be a group of animals from above.
The force urged members of the public to call 999 if they spotted the animal.
“The animal should not be approached as it could become dangerous if alarmed or cornered,” a spokesman said.
A zoo spokesman said Flaviu was settled into his new house and was last fed on Wednesday evening before he made his escape.
“The house into which he was released has successfully held lynx for eight years, however he managed to escape by chewing through a board in the wall of the house,” a zoo spokesman said.
George Hyde, operations manager at the zoo, told reporters: “He is a wild animal, he’s captive bred, which means that he’s never hunted and he’s never killed for food.
“The likelihood is that he’ll be very scared, he’ll be very anxious. He’ll be much more likely to stay away from people and to stay hidden.”
Carpathian lynx, otherwise known as Eurasian lynx, are solitary and secretive animals which live naturally in forests in Europe and Siberia.