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Last Updated: Monday May 23 2011 11:51 GMT

Tiger 'on the loose' sparks massive police hunt

Police picture of the toy tiger from a helicopter

Reports of a wild tiger loose in a field in Hampshire over the weekend led to a frantic police search involving armed officers and a helicopter.

Several people raised the alarm after spotting what they thought was a white tiger in a field near Southampton.

As the police approached the animal, it didn't move a muscle. When officers got closer, they realised why: it was actually a life-sized cuddly toy!

Police are now trying to find out if the tiger was left there as a hoax.

Before officers realised the tiger was a toy, a police helicopter was sent up to keep an eye on it, and specialist zoo staff were even called in to help.

A local golf course was evacuated and plans were made to shut a nearby motorway in case the tiger moved off in that direction.

Police video from helicopter showing the toy tiger

Watch police video from a helicopter

But officers became suspicious when special heat-detecting cameras couldn't pick up any body heat from the tiger. And when the tiger flipped over in the wind, the mystery was solved.

A police spokeswoman said: "This incident will definitely be the highlight of our day. The CCTV footage convinced us all we were dealing with a real tiger.

"It's not often an incident leaves our staff with a smile on their face and it just goes to show the diverse type of incident we are called to deal with."