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Washington's National Zoo calls off search for missing bobcat

WASHINGTON The search for a 25-pound (11-kg) female bobcat that escaped from Washington’s National Zoo has been called off, with officials turning to phone tips to find the elusive feline, the zoo said on Wednesday.

The wild-born bobcat, Ollie, went missing on Monday and likely climbed through a hole in the mesh net that surrounds her enclosure. Searches by keepers, police and humane society volunteers have been fruitless, spokeswoman Devin Murphy said.

“They’re not going to be actively canvassing any of the neighbourhoods anymore,” she said. “We’re relying on tips right now.”

The zoo, one of the U.S. capital’s biggest tourist attractions, has received several reports from people who said they had seen Ollie in nearby residential areas. The zoo also borders wooded Rock Creek Park.

Ollie is thought to be almost 7 years old.

The zoo has warned people against approaching the animal, although bobcats are not known to be aggressive to humans.

Bobcats, which are similar to lynxes, range from Mexico to southern Canada and can run up to 30 miles per hour (48 km per hour). They are from 1.5 to 2 feet (46 to 64 cm) tall at the shoulder and their fur is buff to brown, sometimes with a reddish tinge, according to the zoo’s website.

Officials at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, almost 200 miles (320 km) to the south, also are on the hunt for a female red panda, missing since last week.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone, Toni Reinhold)