A Bengal tiger (search) on the loose in the thick brush surrounding Fort Polk (search) seems to be playing hide and seek — and winning.

A team of about 40 soldiers and sheriff's deputies searched the woods on the Army base for a second day Wednesday for any sign of the tiger.

"So far we've seen neither hide nor hair of it," said Scott Heinrich, owner of a wild animal consultancy that was brought in to track the big cat.

It was unclear where the animal came from, but it's likely that it was a pet that escaped or was set free, said Leslie Whitt, director of the Alexandria Zoo (search), who assisted in the search. Several witnesses said the animal was wearing a collar.

Heinrich said he and others scanned the woods Tuesday morning from a helicopter but did not see the tiger. They continued their search on the ground, beginning from where the animal was last seen, he said.

Based on witnesses descriptions, the tiger is probably about 100 pounds and 1 year old, Whitt said. If it was kept as a pet, it probably has not learned how to hunt for food, he said.

"It probably has no experience whatsoever in killing anything, catching it and eating it," Whitt said. "It's probably just freaked out and looking for a way back to where it belongs."

Heinrich said he was armed with a dart gun and would try to tranquilize the animal if and when he spots it.

However, thick brush made the search difficult, and muddy ground could make it tough to follow the tiger's tracks, he said.

The tiger was first spotted Friday by Robert McElroy, who is retired from the Army, near a base gas station. McElroy said he first thought it was a bobcat, but then recognized it as a tiger and saw its collar.

McElroy said he immediately reported it to military police officers.

"At first I didn't believe it and I am not sure if they did, but they did call for someone to come and look for it," McElroy said. "When I went home and told some of my friends they didn't believe me either."

There have been five sightings since Friday, said Maj. Ron Elliott, a Fort Polk spokesman. An attempt to catch the tiger with a trap baited with deer meat was unsuccessful, Elliott said.

If the animal is caught and its owner does not come forward, it would likely be sent to one of several facilities in Texas for exotic animals, Heinrich said.

Heinrich is owner of Anna's Exotic Animal Ranch and Wildlife Consultants (search), which maintains game reserves in Louisiana and Mississippi and keeps white-tailed deer at its ranch in East Feliciana Parish. The firm specializes in hooved animals such as antelope, deer and giraffe.

Louisiana has no law against ownership of exotic animals such as tigers. A federal law passed last year prohibits interstate commerce in such animals.