KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Wildlife and animal control officers in Knox County are trying to catch a tiger after a deputy spotted one Wednesday night -- and 911 calls reveal several people are seeing similar stripes around the same area of the Asbury neighborhood.
A Knox County deputy was the first to spot and call in what he believed was a tiger cub in the Forks of the River Industrial Park in East Knoxville Wednesday night around 7:30 p.m.
"I'm out here with a tiger cub"
"Do what!?" the 911 center responded.
"You heard right. It's a tiger cub. It might be a TWRA call," he said. "I don't know how to judge the age of the tiger cub, but it's probably around the 4-to-6-month range."
He wasn't the only one in the industrial park to see it. Right as the Knox County Sheriff's Office let the cat out of the bag to the public, another woman called 911 just after midnight. She told them her friend who worked at the Pilot station off Governor John Sevier Highway told her someone else sighted a tiger hanging around the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters plant in the industrial park.
"Thankfully, I'm staying with my boyfriend in Sevierville," she told the 911 operator.
Overnight, dispatch reports showed the search for the elusive tiger cub was well underway. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency had set up traps, and Knox County Airwatch took to the skies to light up the area to help search for it.
When daylight broke Thursday morning, another 911 call arrived just before 7 a.m. from a woman who lived off Thorngrove Pike. Her message got right to the point:
"I think I saw the tiger in my backyard!"
The woman said she saw the tiger running across the yard back toward John Sevier Highway.
A boy that had been walking his dog near Eastwood Baptist Church called 911 about an hour and a half later. He spotted it, too, and hurried back home with his dog... probably calmer than most would be after spotting a tiger prowling in their neighborhood.
"I don't want it to attack me or anything," he told the 911 operator.
All of the calls about the tiger were from the same general area of Knox County surrounding the industrial park and John Sevier Highway. These sightings, however, remain unconfirmed until the "Knoxville Tiger" is actually found.
Where this mysterious young tiger could have come from (if it turns out to actually be a tiger) is completely unknown. Zoo Knoxville and Tiger Haven both said they've counted their big cats -- and all of them are accounted for.
Tiger Haven is currently helping animal control and the TWRA search for the elusive cub.
Anyone who may have information on a missing tiger is asked to call the sheriff's office at 865-215-2243.