Videos of a big cat stalking suburban streets for days has led a zoo to speculate whether it is also the culprit behind a string of killings in its enclosures.
On Friday, San Francisco Zoo confirmed a red kangaroo and two wallaroos were found dead in their outdoor exhibit a week before, SFGATE reported.
The week following the deaths at the zoo, multiple sightings of a mountain lion were reported from all over the city.
Biologists suggested early on in the week, the mountain lion was about 15-months-old. Oakland Zoo later determined it was a male.
One person spotted the mountain lion roaming the streets in Russian Hill at 12.30 on June 16, which is about 15km away from San Francisco Zoo.
“Be safe when walking alone at night or when walking your pets,” one person wrote on Twitter.
At around 12:30 am I spotted a mountain lion roaming the streets of Russian Hill. I followed from inside my car and lost visual contact near intersection of Greenwich and Jones. Be safe when walking alone at night or when walking your pets. I reported the sighting to @SFPD pic.twitter.com/xlreghRSaJ— Fernando Robles (@Ing_Fehr) June 16, 2020
The mountain lion was also captured on CCTV footage outside ABC7 News building at 3.30am on June 16.
Early Thursday morning, June 18, a police officer spotted the mountain lion near a residential building and with the assistance of San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SFACC) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the mountain lion was captured.
Virginia Donohue, the director of SFACC said it was important those wanting to capture the mountain lion did not tranquillise him, because animals that small usually die when tranquillised.
Residents in the area walking their dogs were told to go back inside, so the scent of the dog would not agitate the mountain lion, while authorities moved in, according to ABC7.
San Francisco police officers formed a barrier with their shields, so the mountain lion could not see an escape route.
However, the cat managed to jump a barrier into a terrace, as those with nets began to move it.
Once officials managed to get the mountain lion into a net, it simply tore it and it wasn’t until they secured the cat a second time with another net, they were able to place it in a crate.
“We were struck by the beauty of the animal and we adore them,” Ms Donohue told ABC7.
“But yesterday (Wednesday) when we saw her walking in some areas where there is patio furniture we said - ok this is not a good thing. We have got to get this lion out of here.”
Following the capture of the mountain lion, a spokesperson for San Francisco Zoo told ABC7 a “local wild carnivore” could be responsible for the killing of the kangaroo and two wallaroos.
“With the unusual siting and capture of a young mountain lion in San Francisco this week, the Zoo is investigating whether this could be the perpetrator,” spokesperson Nancy Chan told ABC7.
Following the capture of the mountain lion, a veterinarian assessed him, and he was deemed healthy and released back into the wild, he has also been nicknamed ‘Mr San Francisco’.
A spokesperson for California's Department of Fish and Wildlife told ABC7 the department was not aware of the killings at the zoo prior to releasing the mountain lion.
"Whether or not he still would have been released, I don't know that answer,” the spokesperson said.
“If we would have known, of course that would have been a huge part of the decision making process.”
Joe Vazquez, a reporter from KPIX-TV tweeted that it is believed the young mountain lion was separated from his mother, who may have been killed in a crash on a highway recently.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, more than half of the state is “mountain lion habitat”.
“They are solitary and elusive, and their nature is to avoid humans,” the department says, noting in recent years there have been more reports of mountain lions interacting with humans.
Mr. San Francisco Update!!! Here is a video from the release of our 12th mountain lion rescue yesterday. After being deemed healthy by our Oakland Zoo Vet Hospital, @CaliforniaDFW released him back into an open preserve (Tweet 1/3) pic.twitter.com/yT1f66HDFf— Oakland Zoo (@oakzoo) June 20, 2020
While the mountain lion was on the loose, San Francisco Animal Care urged the public to remain vigilant and offered advice on what to do if you encounter a mountain lion.
“This as a very young animal – much smaller and younger than mountain lions usually are when they disperse and explore new territory,” San Francisco Animal Care tweeted.
“It's likely the mountain lion is confused and lost, and will soon find its way south and out of San Francisco. If you see the mountain lion - do not go near it.
“Give it a wide berth, slowly back away while facing the lion, do not run.”
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