The Berlin bear was given a run for its money as the official symbol of Germany’s capital on Thursday. The authorities said that a “free-roaming lioness” in the area had led to a sprawling search with more than 100 police officers, veterinarians and hunters as well as drones and helicopters involved in trying to catch the animal.
“People are encouraged to stay at home if possible and not let their pets outside,” said a statement from the German municipality of Kleinmachnow, in the state of Brandenburg, where the first sighting of the animal was reported. Officials from the town of 20,000 people, about 14 miles from the center of Berlin, said the lioness had been “causing a stir” overnight since it was spotted eating a wild boar along the road.
The animal had not been captured as of Thursday evening local time, and the Brandenburg police said in a statement that veterinarians, hunters, helicopters and drones had gotten involved in the search. The search was focused on the areas of Teltow, Kleinmachnow and Stahnsdorf, three small towns along the southwest boundary of Berlin, where the police had issued warnings about the animal.
“We ask the population in the aforementioned areas to act with the appropriate vigilance and to avoid going in the adjacent forested areas,” the police statement said. Those who see the animal should “seek shelter immediately” and call the police.
The police received reports around midnight on Wednesday of a sighting of a wild animal chasing and eating a wild boar in Kleinmachnow, they said in a statement.
A short, grainy video of that sighting, which was shared with the police and then circulated on social media on Thursday, appeared to show a large wild cat feeding on a wild boar in a grassy, forested roadside area. The police said that the animal in the video appeared to be a lioness, calling that possibility “credible.”
A search for the animal began immediately, the police said, with the Berlin and Brandenburg police forces getting involved and using helicopters. Riot police were on the scene to protect local residents.
Officials from the town of Kleinmachnow said their goal was to tranquilize and capture the animal, rather than kill it. But a hunter was on standby in case the animal were to put any lives at risk.
After the initial sighting and video, the animal was spotted by the police themselves, a police spokeswoman in Brandenburg told The Associated Press. The mayor of Kleinmachnow and the police did not immediately respond to questions about the sightings. Other sightings reported by residents could not be confirmed, officials said.
The authorities said the animal was most likely to be in the forested areas of Brandenburg.
It was unclear where the lion had come from, as lions are not native to Germany. Though there are zoos, animal protection centers and circuses in the area, the police said none had reported a missing lioness.
Commenters online voiced doubts that the animal in the video was a lion, but the police said that it most likely was.
Others had fun with the chaos, and memes abounded: The Twitter page for Deutsche Bahn, the national German railway operator, tweeted a helpful reminder that while house cats and smaller pets did not need their own tickets, larger pets, “other than companion lions,” required their own train passes.