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Police Shoot, Kill Mountain Lion In the Heart of Berkley

San Francisco Chronicle via YellowBrix

September 01, 2010

BERKELEY — Berkeley police shot and killed a mountain lion early Tuesday as it roamed a neighborhood around the city’s famous Gourmet Ghetto for at least an hour, leaping over fences from one backyard to another.

Three officers shot and killed the 100-pound adult female with rifles and a shotgun shortly before 3:30 a.m. outside a home on the 1600 block of Walnut Street, just blocks from Chez Panisse restaurant, the flagship Peet’s Coffee store, the Cheese Board Collective and other businesses along busy Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley.

Residents speculated that the mountain lion had been hunting for deer, which are commonly seen in the area. But Patrick Foy, a state Department of Fish and Game warden, said it was unclear what the cougar was doing in a residential neighborhood, a baguette’s throw from the birthplace of California cuisine. There were no signs that it had killed any domestic pets, he said.

The nearest open space is Tilden Regional Park, more than a mile east of where the cougar was killed. ‘Very odd’

“We found no reason why it should have been there,” Foy said. “It’s a very odd situation. It’s just very unusual.”

Authorities plan to perform a necropsy on the animal.

Police decided to shoot the cougar because it was jumping into the backyards of residential homes, near where night-shift workers could be coming and going and homeless people were sleeping, Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said.

“It would be irresponsible not to consider this a public-safety threat,” Kusmiss said.

Dana Michaels, a Fish and Game spokeswoman, agreed that it was a prudent decision to kill a mountain lion running loose “in the heart of Berkeley.”

“That’s right in line with our policy,” Michaels said. “If an animal becomes a threat to public safety, you do what you have to, to remove it. It’s nice if you can remove it without killing it, but that wasn’t the case apparently this time.” Spotted in parking lot

The incident began at 2:13 a.m. when someone called 911 to report that a mountain lion was in the parking lot of the former Elephant Pharmacy near the corner of Shattuck and Cedar Street. The building is now vacant.

When officers arrived, the big cat ran east on Cedar and then south on Spruce Street, where it jumped a fence and entered the playground of All Souls Episcopal Church, Kusmiss said.

It then jumped another fence into the backyard of a home on the 1600 block of Spruce and moved back west to Oxford Street. But it didn’t stay there long, and hopped more fences before turning up another block to the west, in the backyard of a home on Walnut.

Two officers with .223-caliber rifles shot the lion, but it’s unclear whether they hit the cat. The mountain lion then moved into an adjoining backyard, where a third officer with a shotgun killed it.

Daniel Turman, 42, who lives on Oxford, said he saw the lion from 20 feet away shortly after it had been killed. Its eyes were closed and its mouth was partly open, he said. “It was clearly a large cat, 100 pounds and 4 to 5 feet long,” Turman said. “There was no doubt in my mind that it would pose a significant threat to a human being.”

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