San Francisco police and game wardens stationed on rooftops in a city neighborhood watched for hours for a young male mountain lion before bringing it down with tranquilizer darts.
“When I arrived the mountain lion was hunkered down,” Lt. James Ober, a game warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It appeared to be under a lot of stress.”
It took two darts to subdue the 82-pound cat on Friday after it had been spotted prowling around the Diamond Heights neighborhood in the heart of the city. Police stood by with rifles in the event of an emergency.
The animal, believed to be 18 months old, was masked and its paws secured with straps. The Santa Cruz Puma Project at the University of California Santa Cruz fitted the animal with a tracking collar and ear tag before it was taken to the Crystal Springs open area in the northern Santa Cruz Mountains.
Experts believe the young animal was striking out to find new home territory of its own and ended up in the wrong place.
It’s not unusual for California mountain lions to be close to or even in cities, but it’s dangerous for the big cats to be roaming close to homes. A mountain lion identified as P-22 has been spotted in Hollywood, and other pumas live in the hills around Los Angeles. It was the first time a mountain lion was captured in San Francisco.
There were at least two sightings of a mountain lion the first week of November near the Presidio and Sea Cliff area of San Francisco. Surveillance video at the home of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff captured the images. It’s not known if that mountain lion was the same as the one tranquilized on Friday. The area is a few miles from Diamond Heights.
There was one other mountain lion sighting in the city in 2015, but there hadn’t been a sighting before then in San Francisco for a hundred years, KGO-TV reported.
Half of California is considered prime mountain lion habitat, but it’s unknown how many of the animals live in the state because they’re difficult to track. There may be as many as 6,000 of the big cats in the state, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.