Police shoot mountain lion in Berkeley

A mountain lion was shot and killed by Berkeley police early this morning after they were unable to chase the cat out of a residential
neighborhood, police said.

No one was injured by the animal, which led police and wildlife officials on a chase through commercial parking lots and backyards before it was killed.

A resident reported the cat to the Berkeley police and fire departments this morning at about 2:13 a.m., Berkeley police Sgt. Mary
Kusmiss said.

The caller spotted the mountain lion in the parking lot of the now-vacant Elephant Pharmacy building near the intersection of Shattuck
Avenue and Cedar Street, Kusmiss said.

Police responded to that location along with the state Department of Fish and Game, Kusmiss said.

When authorities arrived, the cougar ran east on Cedar Street, turned south on Spruce Street, and leaped over a fence into the playground of All Souls Episcopal Church at 2220 Cedar St., Kusmiss said.

The pursuit continued as the mountain lion jumped over another fence into the backyard of a home at 1612 Spruce St., prompting police to set up a perimeter around that address and urge the residents to stay inside, Kusmiss said.

However, the animal managed to escape the perimeter and run onto Oxford Street. It continued west to Walnut Street, Kusmiss said, and was seen entering the backyard of 1634 Walnut St.

The people at that address offered their home to officers as a way to better access the animal, Kusmiss said. It was in that backyard that
police abandoned the original goal of herding the lion into a nearby park area and fired two shots at the cat, which missed, Kusmiss said.

The mountain lion moved toward the officers and tried to run to the house next door, but police killed the animal with a shotgun in the
driveway of 1630 Walnut St. at 3:26 a.m., Kusmiss said.

The commotion of 10 to 12 officers yelling to each other and at the lion awoke Berkeley resident Ursula Schultz, who lives across the street from 1630 Walnut St. between Cedar and Virginia streets.

She said that when the gunshot went off, she grabbed her 12-year-old child, moved to the back of the house and called the police,
unsure of what was happening. Schulz was taken aback when police told her the commotion was over a mountain lion.

“This is highly unusual for this neighborhood,” said Schulz, who has lived in the neighborhood – which she described as a dense “urban student apartment area” – for 30 years.

“I grew up in Berkeley and I've never heard of such a thing,” she said.

She said most wild animals do not venture past Oxford Street because of the heavy traffic there.

Schulz said the lion, which was determined by Fish and Game to be a 90- to 100- pound female, seemed small, barely bigger than her 95-pound German shepherd.

Department of Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foley said the cat was an average-size female for the California region.

He said bigger mountain lions are found in the wilderness in Washington state and Canada. Average male mountain lions in California weigh about 140 pounds, Foley said.

Foley said that his department “absolutely” supports the police officers' decision to kill the mountain lion.

“We've never seen a scenario with a lion in a place like that before in Berkeley,” said Foley, who has been with the department since 1997.

“To be that far into an urban area, it clearly presented a public safety threat.”

“I feel sad the animal had to be put down,” Schulz said. “I understand why, but it's tragic.”

Kusmiss said that although police understand the “sensitive nature” of the killing, they believe they did the right thing.

She said police had to take into account the density of the residential area, the homeless people who sleep there, the overnight
employees who may have been working at nearby businesses, and the proximity of schools to the area.

“Officers who have to dispatch animals find it challenging, but it is part of our duty to protect the community,” she said.

For information about living near wilderness areas and what people should do if they come into contact with a mountain lion, Foley encouraged the public to visit his department's informational website at www.keepmewild.org.

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