CRESTON, B.C. — Conservation officers are looking for a cheetah seen wandering the snowy roads of southeastern British Columbia.
RCMP in Creston said the cheetah was spotted along Highway 3A on Thursday at about 4:30 p.m. in the Crawford Bay and Kootenay Bay areas.
A motorist who saw the animal sent photos to police. The witness told RCMP the animal appeared to be wearing an orange cloth collar.
Insp. Joe Caravetta of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said Friday that three officers are hunting for the cat and also looking for its owner.
He said the provincial wildlife veterinarian doesn't believe the public is at risk but the situation is being treated seriously.
"We want to be able to find this cheetah and for its own health and benefit be able to capture it and get it to a facility and have it checked out," Caravetta said in an interview from Cranbrook.
"It could be hungry, and any animal that is hungry may do things that may not be in its character."
Caravetta said cheetahs are typically shy and less aggressive than other big cats, but noted the animal is out in the cold rather than in its normal tropical habitat.
He said staff are trying to determine if anyone in the area has registered the cheetah, adding the jungle cats are legally allowed with a permit.
"It could simply be a pet, but at this point we haven't been able to talk to the potential custodian."
RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said people should keep a close eye on small children and pets until the animal is located.
"Regardless of it having a collar on, it should be considered and respected as a wild animal," he said in a news release.
Area residents and staff at Crawford Bay School have been notified of the situation.
The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly identified B.C. Conservation Services instead of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service
©2015 The Canadian Press
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