The alert was raised by several members of the public yesterday afternoon when they spotted what they believed to be a live white tiger in a field near Hedge End, Southampton, Hampshire.
The police helicopter was scrambled and a golf course cleared after police arrived at the scene and confirmed the sighting.
Armed police were called to the scene in case the animal came too close to members of the public.
Specialist staff from nearby Marwell Zoo also attended to advise and potentially tranquilise the wild animal.
A local golf course was evacuated and plans were put in place to close the nearby M27 motorway if necessary in case the tiger moved in that direction.