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Search goes on for a snow leopard on the loose

Police were on the lookout Sunday for a 65-pound snow leopard hiding out near a rural community northeast of Naples and were fielding occasional calls from nervous residents.

Owner Gary Leshinsky is offering a $5,000 reward.

Leshinsky and friends, along with sheriff's deputies and state game officers searched through Golden Gate Estates, a community about 25 miles northeast of Naples on the edge of the Everglades. But they could not find the leopard, which is native to mountainous southern Asia.

The 2-year-old leopard, named Katu, escaped early Saturday as her trailer was being towed to the interstate for a trip north.

She has been declawed but not defanged and has a heavy coat so she probably lies low during the hot, muggy Florida days.

"She's shy," Leshinsky said. "I think she'd run if anyone came near her. But I don't know what would happen if she was cornered and couldn't run."

Leshinsky, who is licensed to have leopards and other wild cats in his home, was driving Katu, considered an endangered species, from his home in Golden Gate to the Florida Exhibition Center in Indian Harbor Beach.

He says he thinks the cat was able to squeeze through the bars of the cage.

He said he is worried about her because she can't hunt. Because she ate Friday night Katu may stay hidden for several days.

"We've driven up and down, calling her name," Leshinsky said. "If she heard me, she'd come running straight to me."

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