A young mountain lion shot by police died in surgery at a California zoo on Friday, a zoo spokesperson said, after the animal was startled by a tranquilizer dart and jumped at an officer in a suburban neighborhood.
Oakland Zoo veterinarians received the lion, estimated to be a year old, shortly before midday and prepared it for emergency surgery, said zoo spokesperson Erin Harrison.
A resident of Hollister, about 100 miles south of San Francisco, had spotted the lion on their front porch and called police at about 4:42 a.m., the Hollister Police Department said in statement.
When California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers tried to tranquilize it, the lion ran out of a bush toward a police officer, officials said.
“Fearing for the life and safety of the officer, two officers fired their rifles at the mountain lion,” the police statement said. “We could not place the life of the animal above human life, which is why the officers fired their rifles at the scene.”
The lion jumped a nearby fence into a side yard where it was tranquilized again. Officers found a “pass-through bullet wound to its torso,” said Mike Perin, spokesman for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We did not consider the mountain lion to be a public safety threat. It had not acted aggressively,” he said, noting that the goal was to return the animal to its habitat.
Zoo officials said the lion weighed about 75 pounds.
“He’s beautiful, in great condition, well fed, everything good. Probably just a young guy questing for turf, like they do at that age,” Dr. Alex Herman, vice president of veterinary services at the zoo, said.
Prior to surgery, Dr. Herman was optimistic but conceded the risk. “A lot of animals die from injuries like this,” she said.
SOURCE: Reuters – Reporting by Nathan Frandino and Matt McKnight; Editing by Richard Chang and Chizu Nomiyama