SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A mountain lion captured in San Francisco Bernal Heights late Wednesday night has been examined by Oakland Zoo vets and turned over to California DFW officers to be released in the wild.
After being spotted in a tree late Wednesday on Santa Maria Street near Mission Street, San Francisco Animal Care officers met up with Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel, who hit the the mountain lion with a tranquilizer dart shortly before midnight.
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The mountain lion is in a tree on Santa Marina near Mission. Animal Control Officers are at the scene, monitoring the situation. California Fish & Wildlife is on the way to dart and remove. pic.twitter.com/wCBYalUAmn
— SF Animal Care (@SFACC) May 20, 2021
“It was pretty shocking. At first I thought it probably wasn’t real,” said Bernal Heights resident Ruth Ferguson, who spotted the puma.
After a few minutes, the cougar climbed down the tree and climbed up the front stairs of a house and became incapacitated on the home’s front porch.
“We allowed the drugs to take effect for approximately 15 minutes. At that point, we went up and assessed and the mountain lion was well sedated we applied hobbles which is mainly so that if the mountain lion starts to move around it won’t hurt itself and if for some reason if it took an unusually long time to get it to the zoo they would not have to re-anesthetized it before they can begin assessing it,” said California Department Fish and Wildlife Lt. James Ober.
Fish and Wildlife staffers then took it to the Oakland Zoo, where it arrived at about 1 a.m. Thursday for observation and a check-up before it was to be released to the wild.
Our Veterinary Hospital took in a healthy, 2 year old male male mountain lion, around 1:00 am this morning! He was found in SF Bernal heights neighborhood. (He was previously collared by @ucsc Puma Project)… pic.twitter.com/C6Mc8RFUZU
— Oakland Zoo (@oakzoo) May 20, 2021
Zoo officials tweeted that the healthy, two-year-old male mountain lion received vaccinations and had bloodwork done while in zoo custody. It also noted that the animal was previously collared by the UC Santa Cruz Puma Project.
Oakland Zoo vet Alex Herman affectionately called the big cat “Mister Handsome.”
“We’ll basically give him an injection so he falls asleep so we can handle him safely, but also so it’s not stressful for him,” explained Herman. “We want this guy to have the best experience possible. So I’ll be doing a full physical exam.”
When asked how the mountain lion got to San Francisco, Dr. Herman said the distance traveled was not out of the ordinary.
“Well, it’s normal dispersal behavior, so really moving around the Peninsula is normal behavior for them,” she said.
As to where the cat would be released back into the wild?
“I can’t say where he’s going to be released, but he probably will not go back to Santa Cruz, because we don’t want him to find his way back to San Francisco again,” said Herman.READ MORE: Golden Gate Transit Bus Drivers Vote to Authorize Strike
Zoo officials on Thursday afternoon said on Twitter that the animal had been turned over to Department of Fish and Wildlife officers for release at a safe space somewhere in Santa Clara County.
Our vet and animal care staff examined the mountain lion rescue we received last night. The 2-year-old male is in great overall health! After his exam & vaccines, he was sent along with our best wishes with @CaliforniaDFW to be released in a safe space in Santa Clara County. pic.twitter.com/wWhMWjhp5a
— Oakland Zoo (@oakzoo) May 20, 2021
Data collected from the mountain lion’s collar confirmed it was the same one spotted in the city’s Portola and Bernal Heights neighborhoods on Tuesday morning.
Animal control officials said it was a young male, probably weighing between 120 and 130 pounds.
Warning signs about the mountain lion were posted Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning advised residents that the lion might still be in the area.
Surveillance video initially caught the animal roaming Gaven Street in the city’s Portola District, around 3:50 a.m. Tuesday, according to San Francisco Animal Care and Control officials.
Later Tuesday morning, an eyewitness reported seeing the mountain lion near Bernal Hill Park.
“This young cat may not have been able to find an available patch,” said Zara McDonald, director of the Bay Area Puma Project. “So he kept going north and eventually landed in San Francisco.”
The last time this happened was June of last year when a mountain lion spent two days in the city before being captured in Mission Bay. The animal was released in San Mateo County only to be hit by a car in Pacifica.
The city’s latest visitor will be on his own once released in a spot that seems suitable for a mountain lion.
“Hopefully he’ll do OK,” said McDonald. “I think that’s the question these days; the size of these patches and how small and deteriorated do they need to be before pumas can no longer use them.”
McDonald thinks increased sightings, thanks to more cameras like the ones that spotted the cat in Bernal Heights, might hide the fact the population is actually shrinking.
“There are many forces against these animals surviving today,” explained McDonald. “The ones that survive, they overcome many odds. Yes, you need to be aware when you live at the urban edge, however, we are not on their menus. These animals are not after us. They are trying to survive.”MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Santa Clara County Offers Additional Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests
Wilson Walker contributed to this story.