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The 'lioness' that sparked a massive search near Berlin may have just been a boar

A wild boar is pictured in Berlin in November 2017. This week, local officials in a nearby suburb said they confused one of these animals for a lioness, prompting them to ask residents to stay inside as they searched for the animal.
Tobias Schwarz
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AFP via Getty Images
A wild boar is pictured in Berlin in November 2017. This week, local officials in a nearby suburb said they confused one of these animals for a lioness, prompting them to ask residents to stay inside as they searched for the animal.

Updated July 21, 2023 at 12:48 PM ET

Officials in the town of Kleinmachnow, Germany, called off a massive, two-day hunt for what they believed was a lioness at large, saying the large animal may have actually been a native specimen of wild boar.

The creature in question was first spotted around midnight Thursday (local time) in a wooded area on the southwest outskirts of Berlin, according to a statement from the Brandenburg Police.

A passer-by captured a video of what they believed was a large cat chasing a wild boar, then shared the footage with police, who agreed that the presence of a lioness was "considered credible."

A massive search of the flat, forested area between Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg carried on for over 36 hours, with authorities urging residents to stay indoors and keep a close eye on their pets and children.

Police officers and hunters searched until early Friday for what authorities believed was an escaped lioness in Kleinmachnow, Germany.
Christian Mang / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Police officers and hunters searched until early Friday for what authorities believed was an escaped lioness in Kleinmachnow, Germany.

More than 30 patrol cars, as well as helicopters, veterinarians and hunters were on the scene. Riot police stood by to help protect the local population. Warnings were broadcast to the public via loudspeakers, warning apps and social media.

But, since the start, officials had been puzzled over the predator's origins. None of the local zoos, circuses or animal rescue facilities said they were missing a feline, police and local media reported.

Then, on Friday, Kleinmachnow Mayor Michael Grubert told reportersthat it may not have been a lion all along.

A computer analysis of the mobile phone footage revealed that the creature lacked the long, curving neck characteristic of big cats, Reuters reported. What appears to the eye as a long and bobbed tail could have just been a shadow. And the animal's light coloring? That's found in some wild boars as well, Grubert said.

"Following another convincing tip this morning, police and hunters visited a small area of forest," the mayor added. "We only found a family of wild boar."

Female lions can grow to lengths of 9 feet and weigh between 265 and 395 pounds, according to the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. A male Central European boar, in contrast, averages about 4'11" in length and might weigh up to 441 pounds, according to the European Landowners Association.

But the species is still dangerous to humans, with sharp teeth capable of killing hunters and harassing local residents.

A warning to stay indoors was lifted Friday and search efforts would be considerably scaled back, Grubert said. Though, he added, police would be prepared to react if the situation changed.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
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