Mountain lion gets stuck in Santa Cruz aqueduct

May 16, 2013 5:50:35 PM PDT
A trapped mountain lion became the focus of an intense rescue mission in Santa Cruz Thursday. Neighbors were told to stay inside while authorities tried to deal with the wild kingdom that got a little too close.

The young mountain lion was trapped for several hours in an aqueduct near May Avenue. He was first spotted just walking down the street around 7 a.m. Local police set up a perimeter and with the help of animal experts, were able to corral him into the aqueduct. The animal tried to jump the 15 to 20-foot walls but couldn't. After several hours, he was tranquilized.

"We have lots of wild creatures. We have raccoons and skunks, and possums, and now we have a mountain lion," said. The locals say they just don't see mountain lions in these parts, not in downtown Santa Cruz anyway. But on Thursday, the 40-pound male cat showed up near downtown, even walking down a sidewalk at one point before getting stuck in the Branciforte Aqueduct.

Police, Fish and Game officials, and wildlife experts from the UC Santa Cruz Puma Project came to the rescue. "A lot of times, people see wildlife and they're concerned because it's an unusual sighting. Just because you see an animal and its acting normal but it's in an unusual area, doesn't mean it's a public safety issue," Kevin Joe with the California Fish and Wildlife explained.

In this case, the young mountain line basically bedded down in the aqueduct. After shooting the cat with tranquilizer darts, experts were able to crate him and safely carry him out of the aqueduct on the back of an all-terrain vehicle.

"The first dart caused the animal to move about 50 yards downstream to where it bedded into another grassland area. In testing the animal and testing its reactiveness, we determined it would be better and we'd all be safer if we administered a second dose," said Steve Clark with Santa Cruz Police Department.

As the lion lay on the banks of the waterway, veterinarians were able to give him a thorough exam. Assuming he is well and unhurt, the plan is to take him back up to his habitat, the Santa Cruz Mountains, for release, well away from downtown.

"I don't know how that happens. Makes me think maybe there's something wrong there, like maybe we're in their way. Maybe we're in their way," Santa Cruz resident Nancy Roberts. Nancy Roberts.

In this case, it ended well for both man and cat. Police say in a situation like this, their first priority to is to protect the public and then to rescue the animal without having to euthanize it. In this case, they achieved both.


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