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Mountain lions killed near homes in Half Moon Bay

December 4, 2012 |  3:10 pm

Wandering into a Half Moon Bay neighborhood, two young mountain lions took shelter beneath a porch.

They may have roamed there from a nearby state park. They may have had a run-in with another lion that cast them out of his territory. They may have had a disease that gave them what officials later described as a glazed stare and an uncharacteristic indifference to the humans trying to shoo them away.

If any of those questions are answered, it won't be until results of a necropsy are analyzed in about three weeks. The lions, which weighed 25 to 30 pounds, were fatally shot by a game warden trying to avert a possible threat to public safety, state Department of Fish and Game officials said Tuesday. 

"It was absolutely a last resort," said Janice Mackey, a department spokeswoman.

Tim Dunbar, director of the Sacramento-based Mountain Lion Foundation, said the action was unwarranted.

"It's very hard to understand why Fish and Game thought these guys were a threat," he said.

Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park has a thriving mountain lion population and it's not uncommon for local residents to see big cats in their neighborhood.  But unlike others, the two that were killed Saturday stuck around the area for many hours, triggering a resident's call Friday evening to the San Mateo County sheriff's office.

The resident was told to stay indoors, giving the cats ample opportunity to leave.      

On Saturday morning they were still there, moving occasionally from the porch to bushes next door. Fish and Game wardens arrived in the afternoon, concerned about the animals' odd behavior. 

"Usually you give them a way out and they're gone in the morning," Mackey said. "They had a very abnormal look and didn't display a fear of humans, like most cats."

The Mountain Lion Foundation's Dunbar said the cats may have been awaiting the return of their mother. Judging from their weight, he said they were still kittens under nearly constant maternal supervision, rather than more independent 9-month-old juveniles, as Fish and Game has estimated. 

"They wouldn't even be thinking about leaving their mother prior to 12 months," he said.

Officers considered an attempt at tranquilizing them but rejected it.

Mackey said the drugs seldom take effect instantly, and the spooked lions could have fled deeper into the neighborhood.

"They could have run a mile or two," she said. "They could have hidden under someone else's house and nobody would even know where they were." 

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--Steve Chawkins

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