Quebec police are on the hunt for a pet lion on the loose on a native reserve near Maniwaki, about two hours north of Ottawa.

"Boomer," a male African lion that weighs about 70 kilograms, escaped from his pen Tuesday night. Police say the lion's owner, Stanley Dumont Whiteduck, took Boomer for a walk earlier that night before chaining him up. The cat was last seen on Highway 105.

"He escaped his chained enclosure and is now running loose in the community," Gord McGregor, the director of policing in Maniwaki, told CTV Newsnet.

It is believed the lion, which was being bottle-fed, has only been in his owner's possession for two days.

A helicopter and a search party wielding a heat-detection device were scouring the area Wednesday in an effort to locate the cat.

Lion's presence a surprise

McGregor says the presence of a lion in the community came as a surprise to everyone.

"At 8 a.m. (Wednesday) I was advised of a lion in the community and I thought to myself, `What else could go wrong today,"' McGregor said. "I was stunned."

While Boomer's owner maintains his pet lion is not dangerous, police are taking precautions.

"We've been told he's pretty docile, but he's been in the woods for the past evening. So, we're worried about natural instincts coming into play here and making life a little dangerous for us," McGregor said.

Community on edge

Police say residents in the small, sparsely populated community have been notified about Boomer's escape, and they locked down a local school.

"The only thing we haven't done is go door to door. The radio stations have been contacted. The media has been contacted. We're in a small town so word gets out pretty quickly. So everybody knows that we do have a lion roaming around the community," McGregor said.

Residents in the community are on edge and told CTV News they're scared to leave their homes.

Extensive search party

The search party hunting for the cat includes police, provincial wildlife officials, a police helicopter flown in from Montreal, sophisticated heat-detection equipment and the lion's owner.

Police declined to say whether the lion's owner could face legal repercussions for keeping a large beast as his pet.

"He's helping with the search. For now, we're focusing on the search," said Melanie Larouche, a spokesperson for Quebec provincial police.

Owner would need to have a permit

An official at Quebec's Natural Resources Department said in an interview that someone would need a permit to keep such an animal at home.

"We have issued no lion permits in the area," said regional spokeswoman Catherine Rooney.

Police are asking anyone who spots the lion to keep their distance and call 819-310-4141.

With files from The Canadian Press