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Mountain lion killed in Santa Monica was wild, not exotic pet

May 23, 2012 |  3:12 pm

Santa Monica mountain lion

The mountain lion that was shot and killed Tuesday in downtown Santa Monica was not one of the handful of animals that biologists have tracked in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Authorities said the adult male cat did not have a GPS radio collar, such as the ones that biologists affixed to five mountain lions they have been studying in the region.  However, they still believe the animal traveled from the nearby mountains, said Jeff Sikich, a biologist with the National Park Service.

Sikich contends that the mountain lion was a wildcat and not somebody's exotic pet.  He noted that most captive animals are fat from overfeeding and are de-clawed to protect the owner.

"This was a healthy, wild lion," he said.

For a decade, the National Park Service has been monitoring the habits of large cats inhabiting the mountains  two miles from the city.

About 10 mountains lions live in the Santa Monica Mountains, Sikich said. Half of them have radio collars that transmit their location.

It's extremely rare for them to roam into an urban development, he noted.

The 90-pound cat in Santa Monica was seen shortly before 6 a.m. walking down Arizona Avenue.  A janitor spotted him in the U-shaped courtyard of an office building, pawing at a glass door.  The animal tried to approach the janitor, but he ran into a building and called police.

Authorities arrived and made several attempts to contain the mountain lion in the courtyard, said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game.

Wildlife agents shot the animal with tranquilizing darts, he said. The animal became aggressive and tried to flee the courtyard.  Officers used non-lethal bullets and firefighters used a water hose to contain it.  The animal got close to one of the Santa Monica police officer and it was fatally shot.

“We never want to do this," Hughan said.  "We never want to destroy an animal, especially a beautiful, magnificent mountain lion."

Tissue and hair samples were taken from the animal to be used for genetic analysis at UCLA. 

Sikich  speculated that the animal could have come from the southeast corner of the Santa Monica Mountains, but scientists won't know for sure until results come back from genetic testing next week.


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Photo: Mountain lion found in Santa Monica. Credit: Santa Monica Police Department