A mountain lion was fatally shot by officers after it made its way into downtown Santa Monica early Tuesday, May 22 and became trapped in a building courtyard.
Police and state Department of Fish and Game staff initially attempted to immobilize the young male mountain lion for release back into the wild but said they were ultimately forced to take lethal action due to public safety concerns.
The animal wandered into the area of Second Street and Arizona Avenue at about 6 a.m. and entered a courtyard, where police were able to contain the less-than-100-pound lion. Fish and Game wardens, Animal Control and the Santa Monica Fire Department were called for assistance with the capture of the mountain lion.
Santa Monica police Lt. Robert Almada said officials attempted to subdue the wild animal with tranquilizer darts, “less than lethal” pepper ball rounds and the use of water hoses but the lion continued to try to escape from the courtyard.
“Regrettably, police were forced to use lethal force to prevent the animal from escaping the courtyard and endangering the public,” Almada said.
Fish and Game officials said three non-lethal methods were used in an effort to immobilize the large cat for transport, but it was shot by police officers to prevent it from running through a populated area where pedestrians and cars were present.
“Our hope is always to be able to return wild animals back to their natural habitat,” Department of Fish and Game Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf said. “However, public safety is our number one priority. We appreciate the cooperation and assistance that the Santa Monica Police provided, and support the decisions that were made in the field.”
Some questioned the need for lethal force and why additional efforts were not attempted to ensure the safety of the creature. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) issued a statement calling for an investigation into the procedures and training protocols required for safely subduing wildlife.
“Basically, they agitated and frightened a cornered cat before they killed her,” said Madeline Bernstein, president of spcaLA. “Deadly force should be used only as a last resort.”
The lion died at the scene and was transported to a lab for necropsy.
It is unknown how or why the lion made its way to such a busy urban area, Fish and Game officials said.