updated 9/1/2004 11:57:42 AM ET 2004-09-01T15:57:42

A Bengal tiger on the loose in the thick brush surrounding an Army base is winning a game of hide and seek.

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About 40 soldiers and sheriff’s deputies searched the woods in Fort Polk for a second day Wednesday.

It was unclear where the animal came from, but it’s likely that it was a pet that escaped or was set free, said Leslie Whitt, director of the Alexandria Zoo, who assisted in the search. Several witnesses said the animal was wearing a collar.

Scott Heinrich, a consultant who was brought in to track the tiger, said he and others scanned the woods from a helicopter Tuesday but did not see the tiger. They continued their search on the ground, he said.

Based on witness descriptions, the tiger is probably about 100 pounds and a year old, Whitt said.

“It probably has no experience whatsoever in killing anything, catching it and eating it,” Whitt said. “It’s probably just freaked out and looking for a way back to where it belongs.”

Heinrich said he was armed with a dart gun and would try to tranquilize the animal.

The tiger was first spotted Friday near a Fort Polk gas station by Robert McElroy, who is retired from the Army. McElroy said he first thought it was a bobcat, but then recognized it as a tiger and saw its collar.

McElroy said he immediately reported it to military police.

“At first I didn’t believe it, and I am not sure if they did, but they did call for someone to come and look for it,” McElroy said.

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