MANIWAKI, Que. — A helicopter and a search party wielding a heat-detection device were scouring a Quebec aboriginal reserve in pursuit of a lion on the loose Wednesday.
The 70-kilogram king of the jungle, who goes by the name of Boomer, has been on the lam since he escaped Tuesday night from a house - where he was kept as a man's personal pet. "What we've heard is he left the house," said Melanie Larouche, a spokeswoman for Quebec provincial police.
"He was a domestic pet."
The lion, which is about four feet high, was last spotted beside Highway 105, near Maniwaki, about an hour north of Ottawa.
The animal arrived in Maniwaki two days ago, purchased by a resident of the nearby Kitigan Zibi reserve, Kitigan Zibi police chief Gordon McGregor said.
"It apparently didn't like its accommodations so it broke free from its enclosure or pen," McGregor said.
"We haven't had much word from it since."
The lion's presence in the aboriginal community came as a surprise to everyone.
"At 8 a.m. (Wednesday) I was advised of a lion in the community and I thought to myself, 'What else could go wrong today,"' McGregor said.
"I was stunned."
"Being a male, I think its mane is starting to come out now," McGregor said.
McGregor said police are going door to door with flyers and are asking residents to stay vigilant, stay out of the woods and watch their children closely.
"Apparently the lion is domesticated but there is some concern that its animal instincts might kick in at some point," McGregor said.
Boomer's owner insists the animal is playful and used to humans.
Schools and daycare centres have been advised of the lion's presence in the area. Police have provided extra protection.
The search party of 15 people includes police, provincial wildlife officials, a police helicopter flown in from Montreal, sophisticated heat-detection equipment, and the lion's owner.
Police declined to say whether the man could face legal repercussions for keeping a large beast as his pet.
"He's helping with the search," Larouche said. "For now, we're focusing on the search."
An official at Quebec's Natural Resources Department said in an interview that someone would need a permit to keep such an animal at home.
"We have issued no lion permits in the area," said regional spokeswoman Catherine Rooney.