Mountain lion found in Irvine office is back in the wild – NBC Los Angeles

Back in nature!

A mountain lion that led Irvine police on a wild chase Tuesday has been returned to the Santa Ana Mountains, its natural habitat, unlike the area where it was found running through city streets.

From now on, the mountain lion will be known as M317, and every move he makes will be tracked by the GPS collar he now wears.

A 2-year-old mountain lion walked through an office in Irvine and was subdued by animal control officers. Vikki Vargas reports for NBC4 News on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

The 113-pound mountain lion became a cause-celebre as it streaked through Sand Canyon Plaza just after noon on Tuesday.

Veterinarian Scott Weldy knew the big cat could be caught if he could just be surrounded.

So he loaded his dart gun and got ready.

“He was trying to get in through the windows. The only door open was the one where the air conditioning was broken, and the cat made a noise — right inside. It was great for us because we could close the door “, said Weldy.

Photos were taken inside the Irvine office building where Weldy says he played a measured game of hide and seek with the cougar.

“My dart hit him in the shoulder and got stuck, and then we topped him off with an extra because he wasn’t low enough for us to get him out,” Weldy said.

Experts say the male cougar was likely dispersing, meaning he was trying to establish his own territory away from his family. But he ended up with a geographic hangover.

“I suspect he went down a drainage channel at night, and then when the sun came up he found himself in this urban environment,” said Winston Vickers of the California Mountain Lion Project.

Vickers, who studies cougars, says it’s not in a cat’s nature to attack unless provoked.

“This animal was terrified and they have nothing on their mind but to get away from people,” Vickers said.

M317 was released into the Santa Ana Mountains after being checked for fleas and ticks and vaccinated.

Initially, state officials thought it would be best to release the cat near where he was found, but given the development in the area, the decision was made to release him from where. he was coming to start over.

There are about 4,000 to 6,000 cougars in California, but wildlife officials call that a rough estimate with no ongoing statewide study. More than half of the state is considered prime habitat for big cats, which can be found wherever deer are present.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife receives hundreds of mountain lion sighting reports each year. Rare are the instances where mountain lions are identified as an imminent threat to public safety, the department said. Cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare and their nature is to avoid humans.

Here is a complete list of recommendations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on what to do when encountering a mountain lion:

  • Don’t hike, bike, or jog alone. Stay alert on the trails.
  • Avoid hiking or jogging when cougars are most active – at dawn, dusk and at night.
  • Supervise small children closely.
  • Dogs off leash on the trails are at increased risk of becoming preyed upon by a mountain lion.
  • Never approach a cougar. Give them an escape.
  • DO NOT RUN. Stay calm. Running can trigger a chase, grab, and kill response. Don’t turn your back. Face the animal, make noise, and try to look taller by waving your arms or opening your jacket if you’re wearing one; throw stones or other objects. Pick up little kids.
  • Do not squat or bend over. Crouching puts you in a vulnerable position where you look like 4-legged prey.
  • Be vocal; however, speak calmly and do not use high-pitched tones or high-pitched shouts.
  • Teach others how to behave in a meeting. Anyone running can launch an attack.
  • If a lion attacks, retaliate. Research into mountain lion attacks suggests that many potential victims have successfully fought back with rocks, sticks, gardening tools, even an ink pen or bare hands. Try to stay upright. In the event of a rollover, try to protect your head and neck.
  • If a mountain lion attacks a person, call 911 immediately.
  • Report unusual mountain lion behavior to your local CDFW regional office.

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Jennifer R. Strohm