Authorities in the town of Ventas de Huelma, a pueblo of 600 people situated 25 km south west of Granada, issued the warning after several residents reported seeing a “black panther” on the outskirts of the town on Friday evening.
Luis Miguel Ortiz, the mayor of Ventas de Huelma, informed local residents that the sighting was being taken seriously.
The town hall posted a notice on its Facebook page urging vigilance and informing the public that a search had been launched by Seprona, the wildlife unit of the Civil Guard.
But on Sunday despite an extensive search being carried out by officers on the ground as well as a helicopter scrambled to search from the air, no trace was found of the animal.
“We have statements from people saying they have seen the animal, but we have not found a single trace of it,” said a spokesperson from the Civil Guard on Sunday.
In an interview with local paper Ideal, Álvaro Aguado was very clear about what he saw: “It was a panther, a very large feline with a long tail,” he said explaining that he and his wife were out walking his dog. “My wife saw it first and said ‘Look it’s a panther’, and I looked through the binoculars and yes it was. I went back on Saturday and saw it again in the same place.”
He tried to take a snap of the animal with his mobile phone but the resulting image was nothing more than a blur.
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However on Monday, reports emerged that a Seprona team had discovered what could be a footprint of a cat the size of a panther and were waiting for analysis to confirm whether it was so.
And in an update from the town hall it was claimed a Civil Protection Officer had spotted what he thought might be the panther “on the road in the direction of Agron”.
On Monday, a bar owner in the town of Escúzar, located around 6km from the first sighting reported “hearing roars”, according to a report in Ideal.
On Tuesday afternoon there was another update. “At 2pm, a resident in the town of Ventas de Huelma reported seeing the animal just 20 metres from his vehicle near the Cortijo de Noniles, between Ácula and Chimeneas,” said an update from the town hall.
“The Seprona team is already in the area trying to locate the animal. They have identified footprints made by the panther.”
The update ended with a sinister warning: ” We strongly urge extreme caution, under no circumstances go out to have a look or play detective. It is very dangerous. This animal can kill! “
The team preparing is preparing to continue the search at dusk and into the night using thermal cameras when such animals become more active.
Seprona did confirm that they have no reports of an escaped panther or indeed any record of such an animal being held within the region.
Panthers are a protected species and would require a special licence to be kept in a private zoo, but there have been instances of people keeping such animals without the required paperwork.
In 2016, a black panther was found by Seprona officers being kept illegally at a rural property in the province of Almería.