The cheetah on the loose in B.C.'s Kootenay region looks like an adult female named "Annie Rose" that is likely to stalk children, says the owner of an Alberta zoo.
A cheetah was spotted wandering along the side of a snowy B.C. highway north of Creston, B.C. Thursday afternoon, triggering a public warning from the RCMP and a search by three conservation officers.
Doug Bos of Discovery Wildlife Park says the markings, collar and other details of the unidentified animal match Annie, a female cheetah that was at his facility in 2014.
"I don't know 100 per cent for sure if [it is] the same cheetah," he told CBC News. "But the chances of [it] not being the same cheetah are very unlikely."
Discovery Wildlife Park is a provincially-registered zoo in Innisfail, Alta. that takes in orphaned wildlife and exotic animals that can't be kept legally as pets.
In 2013, Annie Rose and a male cheetah, Robin, were brought to the facility by their owners, who had imported them from Africa, said Bos.
"They are people who always wanted to have cheetahs," he said.
Conservation officers are looking for the person, who has not been publicly named, they suspect owns the cheetah.
'That cheetah will stalk little kids'
Annie Rose and Robin left the facility in October, 2014, in part for safety reasons, said Bos. He is concerned what a cheetah on the loose might do.
"That cheetah will stalk little kids," said Bos, who witnessed the behaviour when children visited his facility.
"They're very predatory like that, especially the female," he said. "That's in their nature, and they were never taught any better."
In B.C., cheetahs are considered a "controlled alien species" and it's illegal to own one without a permit — a change brought in by the B.C. government in 2009 after a Siberian tiger mauled the girlfriend of its owner in 100 Mile House.
No individual in the province has been granted a permit to possess one — but someone in the Kootenay region has applied for one, said the Forests Ministry in a statement Friday.
Bos hopes the attention on the loose cheetah — whether it's Annie Rose or not — helps people understand why cheetahs should not be pets.
"Big cats aren't for ... the average public to own, because of these things happening," said Bos. "Do not own these big cats; they're not pets."