A lynx that escaped from Dartmoor Zoo on Thursday is still on the loose in rural Devon, and searchers are planning to use a recorded call of its mother to try and lure the wild cat out of hiding.
The two-year-old cat, called Flaviu, is a Eurasian lynx. He arrived at Dartmoor on Wednesday, after being transferred from Port Lympne Reserve in Kent. Within a day, however, he had chewed through his enclosure and made a successful break for freedom, possibly because he was missing his mum, Klementyna, who is still at Port Lympne.
Zoo staff believe the missing cat is skulking around farmland quite close to the zoo, near Plymouth, and Dartmoor Zoo owner, Ben Mee, is currently sourcing a recording of Klementyna to try and flush him out. Bedding from Port Lympne, which still caries the familiar scent of his mum, is also being used to try and attract the young feline towards humane traps.
‘Flaviu is a bit of a mummy’s boy, so we think he is really missing his mum,’ Mee told the BBC. ‘That is why he could have escaped last week, because he was trying to get back to her.’
‘We played a general lynx call last night and some of our younger staff thought they heard a reply,’ he explained to reporters. ‘We are hopeful that the noises, along with the bedding, which we will place in one of the larger traps, will be enough to lure him out.’
If Flaviu is spotted, the plan is to use a tranquilliser dart to sedate him. The tricky part it keeping a visual on the animal while the drug takes affect, which takes some minutes. A drone might be used for this purpose, in case the cat escapes into thick undergrowth where he will be hard to trace.
The Eurasian lynx (also known as the Carpathian lynx) is slightly bigger than a domestic cat. Native to Europe, Siberia and parts of Asia, they once lived in Britain, but became extinct on these shores over a thousand years ago. In recent years there have been calls by environmentalists and the Lynx UK Trust for the animals to be reintroduced to the UK.
Lynx typically feed on rabbits and rodents, but are more than capable of taking on much bigger animals, such as deer. They are not fast runners, instead relying on stealth and surprise whilst hunting, jumping on prey from trees or rocks.
Police have said Flaviu could be dangerous if cornered and have urged the public to stay clear, to avoid jeopardising the mission. ‘Any activity in this area, such as trying to get photographs, runs the risk of alarming the animal and possibly making it move on and thus making it harder to find,’ they have warned. ‘There is also a small risk that if alarmed the lynx could injure anyone who does not understand its potential behaviour in such circumstances.’
However, Mee was quick to stress that the cat was not in danger of being killed during the operation. ‘One thing I must remind everyone is that we will not try, at any stage, to shoot Flaviu with live firearms,’ he said. ‘He does not pose a threat.’