Officials in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate on Wednesday gave hunters permission to shoot an escaped panther that has been on the loose near the Belgian border for almost a year.
Both the Koblenz regional environmental protection office and city licence agency (SGD) have approved hunters’ rights to kill the big cat, they said.
“We’re looking into if and how we can find the animal,” said Nicole Scherer, spokesperson for the licence agency.
The authorities believe the animal could be a black panther that escaped from a French animal park some time ago. A “large black creature” has been cited along the Belgian border near Trier four times just since August, a factor that informed the city’s decision, they said.
Tranquilising the animal is not a good enough option, officials said, because it could flee in the seven minutes it takes for the drugs to take hold.
The black creature was first seen in the Belgian Ardennes region, just on the other side of the German border, about one year ago. Later similar sightings were reported in other parts of Belgium, Luxemburg, and Germany’s Eifel region near Trier.
“According to the number of sightings we must take the situation seriously,” said Thomas Müller, spokesperson for the Trier-Saarburg county administration.
After tigers and lions, black panthers are the world’s third-largest big cat species.