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Wildlife officials tranquilize and release mountain lion in Santa Barbara

January 7, 2013 |  5:23 pm

A 100-pound mountain lion was captured and released into Los Padres National Forest on Monday afternoon after making its way into a Santa Barbara backyard.

Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to a call from a homeowner about 8:30 a.m. about a lion in a heavily wooded backyard bordering the Santa Barbara Golf Club.

Several wildlife officers responding to the scene determined that the lion was not a public safety threat.  A nearby elementary school was notified as a precaution, but not locked down or evacuated.

The young male feline didn’t seem interested in leaving the heavily vegetated area and appeared to feel secure, said Cpt. Mike Stefanak, giving authorities enough time to prepare to tranquilize it. The lion was too far to be chased out.

“The lion was so far into the residential area we couldn’t push it out,” Stefanak said. “So we had to tranquilize the animal and remove it.”

About 12:30 p.m., wildlife officers, with the aid of local public safety officials, tranquilized the mountain lion and transported it to Los Padres National Forest.

Most of the time deer tend to be the driving force for a mountain lion’s migration patterns in the area, Stefanak said, but it didn’t appear to be a factor this time. The last time a mountain lion came into a Santa Barbara was about six months ago, but officials were able to chase it back into the wild without tranquilizing it.

“It’s not very common, but it does happen,” Stefanak said.

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-- Adolfo Flores

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