Italian authorities in Bari have warned the public to avoid the countryside after several local sightings of a black panther.
On Saturday, the mayor of Acquaviva delle Fonti, Davide Carlucci, banned outdoor activities in the area where the animal had been spotted.
But in a Facebook post showing one sighting of the panther, Carlucci also stated that "there is no cause for alarm".
"I have signed an ordinance prohibiting cycling and pedestrian transit and the carrying out of any sporting or agricultural activity by citizens on all country roads and roads outside the town of Acquaviva."
"In order to avoid frightening the feline and cause aggressive behaviour, owners of domestic and farm animals must keep them safe ... to protect them from possible attacks."
Italian forestry police, under the coordination of the prefecture of Bari, have been patrolling the local area over the weekend using drones. They had confirmed the presence of the animal after finding footprints.
"Clearly the operation is delicate and dangerous," said Carlucci. "We'll do anything we can to capture the animal and put it to sleep without harming it."
A similar emergency order was also issued on Saturday by the mayor of Adelfia, Giuseppe Cosola, after a "panther sighting".
Meanwhile, authorities in the nearby town of Castellana Grotte had been on alert since 4 February after reports of a large black cat "roaming the countryside".
"The panther was definitely spotted between Acquaviva and Casamassima," Mayor Francesco De Ruvo said on Saturday.
"In the light of this, unless in the exceptional case of new, proven sightings in the area of Castellana Grotte, I will revoke my emergency order on Monday".
Vets from a local zoo are also on the scene to monitor sightings of the animal. It is not yet clear where the panther came from.
"We received a communication from the Enalcaccia Animal Protection Unit of the possible movement of the panther in the "Parco delle sorbe" area ... between Casamassima and Sammichele di Bari," said Giuseppe Nitti, mayor of Casamassima.
"There is no alarm, but citizens are asked to pay the utmost attention, especially in that area," he said on Facebook.
In 2019, a black panther was spotted climbing rooftops in a northern French town before it was captured and transferred to an animal protection organisation.
The animal had been kidnapped overnight from a zoo in Maubeuge, authorities later revealed.