Police have warned residents of two villages not to approach a black panther reported to be on the loose in the area.
Police Scotland said they received a report of a suspected sighting of the panther at around 8.45am on Friday in fields near to the B730 road between the villages of Drongan and Coalhall, East Ayrshire.
Residents have been advised to be vigilant and officers are currently trying to trace the animal.
A police helicopter was used to try and locate the big cat on Friday morning and an animal expert has been brought in attempt to confirm its identity.
The force said in a statement: “Residents in Drongan and Coalhall are being advised by officers to be vigilant after a report has been received of a sighting of what is believed to be a black panther in the fields near to the B730 between the two villages.
“Officers are currently working to locate the animal which may be injured.
“The area is popular with dog walkers so care should be taken and if anyone sees the animal we would ask you not to approach it, but to contact Police via 101 quoting incident number 0780 of Friday 19 October 2018.”
A spokeswoman added: “A thorough search of the area was carried out this morning with assistance from the police helicopter.
“However, officers have been unable to trace the animal.
“Officers are currently liaising with a expert in order to confirm the identity of the animal.”
Police worked with animal welfare charity the Scottish SPCA animal rescue officers but they have since stood down since they are unable to deal with big cats.
The charity’s animal rescue officer Alistair Hill said: “We can confirm we have received reports regarding a possible panther sighting in Ayr.
“We have liaised with Police Scotland and informed them that we are unequipped to deal with such animals and therefore will not be involved in investigating the incident.”
Alan Green owns an upholstery business which overlooks the fields where the panther sighting was reported.
He said: “I’ve not seen it personally but where it’s supposedly been sighted is just out the back of my workshop.
“I’ve seen the police helicopter up and roundabout.
“I’m not unduly concerned. When I first heard about it thought ‘a black panther here?’ but maybe it could be true.”
Black panthers are not a distinct species of cat but an umbrella term for any big cat with with a black coat, caused by a specific gene most commonly found in leopards and jaguars.
The animals are native to Asia, Africa and the Americas and are classed as endangered.
Generally nocturnal and solitary, black panthers are said to be quiet and cautious but have been known to be aggressive.
Between 2010 and 2015, 455 big cat sightings were logged by police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including several suspected panthers, while Police in Scotland received 140 reports in the five years to 2014.