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Thursday, November 19, 1998 Published at 20:00 GMT


Police call off search for lion

There are many places for a lion to hide in Dartmoor

Armed police have called off their search for a lion, believed to have been loose in the area around a Devon village.

BBC's Clinton Rogers: Local people advised to stay indoors
They say they will not be resuming the search unless further sightings are reported.

The hunt began after a motorist said he spotted the lion on a country road on the southern fringes of Dartmoor on Thursday morning.

By late afternoon, there had been two more sightings of the animal within two miles of the original one.

[ image: Police took the sightings very seriously]
Police took the sightings very seriously
A 6in diameter paw print was also found in a field near houses in the Wrangton area, near Ivybridge.

Police Sergeant Alan Mobbs said he understood the lion was an immature male, about two years old.

People living in the area were advised to stay indoors and not walk their dogs as two teams of dog handlers, accompanied by armed officers, combed the fields.

The animal, which has a bloody mane, was sighted by Paul Gourley, 42, after he dropped his children off at a school in Wrangton.

It panicked when his car approached to within 20 yards and jumped through a hedge, vanishing into fields.

Cold and hungry

Asked if he was sure of what he had seen, Mr Gourley, of Cheston Caravan Park, Wrangton said: "I know a lion when I see one."

[ image: Casts were taken of the animal's paw prints]
Casts were taken of the animal's paw prints
Robin Godbeer, of Dartmoor Wildlife Park at Sparkwell, near Ivybridge said the paw print did appear to be that of a big cat.

However, he said none of the 13 big cats were missing from the wildlife park and he had no idea from where the beast could have come from.

Mr Godbeer said: "If it is cold and hungry it is going to look for food, but for most of the big cats, humans are last on the list.

"It is not a rabid wild animal hunting humans.

"It is going to run away long before it does anything else.

"With its senses, it is going to pick us up long before we know it is there."

It is not the first time big cats have been reported roaming wild in the country.

For more than 15 years, the hunt has been on for the so-called Beast of Exmoor and the Beast of Bodmin.

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