By Angela Woodall and Kristin Bender
Updated: 08/31/2010 09:20:37 PM PDT
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BERKELEY — Police shot and killed a 100-pound female mountain lion early Tuesday morning near a stretch of popular restaurants and shops on the north side of town after a chase that led through an empty playground and several backyards.
“Berkeley police believed that this mountain lion posed a significant public safety threat,” said police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. “Berkeley Police Department officers who have to (shoot) animals find it challenging, but it is part of our duty to protect the community.”
Berkeley police and firefighters received reports of a mountain lion sighting at 2:15 a.m., Kusmiss said.
A caller spotted the animal in the empty lot of the vacant Elephant Pharmacy building at
Shattuck Avenue and Cedar Street — about a block from the Chez Panisse restaurant. Police called the California Department of Fish and Game and dispatched officers to investigate.
When they arrived, the mountain lion ran eastbound on Cedar Street. The animal then ran southbound on Spruce Street and jumped a fence into the playground of All Souls Episcopal Parish and again jumped a fence into the rear yard of a house in the 1600 block of Spruce Street. Police advised residents to stay inside then set up a perimeter. A short time later, the animal was spotted running on Oxford Street.
They finally tracked the animal to the rear yard of a house in the 1600 block of Walnut Street, two blocks from the Jewish Community Center of the
East Bay. Apartments and bungalows line the street.
Officers shot twice at the mountain lion, which came toward them and continued into the driveway of a house directly north. A third shot killed the animal at 3:26 a.m. A Fish and Game warden removed the body for examination and disposal.
Why the animal might have wandered into the area is “the question of the day,” said fish and game spokesman Patrick Foy. The busy north side of Berkeley, he said, is a “very rare place to find a mountain lion” despite the proximity to Tilden Park.
They usually are quiet, solitary, elusive, and they typically avoid people.
The mountain lion could have been someone’s pet, but there is no indication that was the case. Wardens found no sign of injury to the animal or any other reason it would have been drawn to the neighborhood, Foy said.
Police appear to have done “exactly the right thing” by shooting the animal, the fish and game spokesman said. “Unfortunately, they had no alternative.”
Wardens, he added, do not carry tranquilizers, which are too unreliable in an emergency situation such as one in which a mountain lion is hopping in and out of a populated area. “We are not going to … further risk the public,” Foy said.
No one was injured and no property was damaged.
“Despite the sensitive nature of this event, we feel confident about the actions taken by the Berkeley police officers, considering the totality of the events, when considering the densely populated area in which the animal was in, the homeless that sleep in the area, the overnight employees who clean businesses and the like, the adjacent schools and the northern Shattuck corridor,” Kusmiss said.
Details about mountain lion safety can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild.
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