The emergency call to the police in the German city of Bochum was logged at 9 a.m. on Christmas Day. The eyewitness began by insisting he was totally sober and not the least bit crazy, and that he was certain he had seen the cadaver of a full-sized leopard floating in the lake of a city park.
"He assured us that he knew what he was talking about, that he was a trained hunter and even had relevant 'African experience'," the Bochum police said in a statement. "He said he had even gone back home to get his binoculars to make sure he hadn't made a mistake."
A squad car was sent to the scene and the police officers confirmed what the man had seen -- the sad sight of a lifeless leopard drifting in the grey water.
"The officers attached some plastic police cordon tape to a stick and kept throwing it at the animal until it caught," a spokesman told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "They dragged it ashore and found that it was a deceptively realistic stuffed toy.
"We often get crank calls about wild animals. In summer 2010 we were kept busy for a whole week with sightings of two crocodiles in the Ruhr river. But this toy looked so real from a few meters away that we couldn't blame the caller for thinking it was genuine."
The leopard, standing on all fours, may have been an unwanted Christmas present, tossed into the water with merciless frustration on Christmas Eve, when Germans traditionally hand each other their gifts.
"We wouldn't mind tracing the owner," the spokesman said. "The leopard is still in quite good condition, if a bit damp."