Deputies and wildlife officers were looking Monday for an African lion reported by a resident to be loose in a rural part of El Paso County.

Sheriff's Lt. Lari Sevene said the lion was reported at about 8 a.m. in the eastern part of the county. The resident told deputies the cat had a red mane and a big tail.

Authorities have not seen the animal themselves. However, state wildlife division spokesman Michael Seraphin told The Gazette newspaper that photos taken by two residents show it's an African lion and not a cougar. Wildlife officials also found tracks left by the lion.

The search was focusing on a field about a mile and a half square.

"We figure he's probably just taking a nap right now," Sevine said.

Authorities have requested a police helicopter to search from the air.

Big Cats of Serenity Springs, a sanctuary in the area that houses lions, tigers, leopards and other animals, told sheriff's deputies that none of its cats were missing.

Sevene said deputies asked the sanctuary to double-check.

The sanctuary is 30 miles east of Colorado Springs and 60 miles south of Denver.