By Chris Cooney
Bay City News Service
Authorities shot and killed a mountain lion that they cornered in a backyard after it wandered into a Redwood City neighborhood Tuesday morning (March 29).
The cat was first spotted at about 8:15 a.m. near Alameda de las Pulgas and Whipple Avenue.
Police set up a perimeter and trapped the animal in the backyard of a home near Whipple and Woodsworth avenues, about a block from Sequoia Hospital.
The mountain lion was shot by California Department of Fish and Game wardens at about 11:30 a.m.
Department spokesman Kyle Orr said the cat, a roughly 120-pound female, was hissing at the wardens, and that they didn't want to risk having it escape and run loose through the neighborhood.
Additionally, the animal's position would have made it difficult to hit with tranquilizers, he said.
"They couldn't get a clear shot to dart the cougar because it was essentially between two fences," Orr said.
Cherie and Wally Oliver, who live at 2515 Whipple Ave., where the cat was trapped, said the animal was in a tree in their backyard at one point. Cherie Oliver said there is a hot tub about 20 feet from the tree.
"I'll think twice in the hot tub at night when I hear rustling in the leaves," she said.
Oliver, who was home sick from work, said she agrees with decision to shoot the mountain lion.
"They couldn't chance him being wounded and running off terrorizing the neighborhood," she said.
Scott Delucchi, a spokesman for the Peninsula Humane Society, said police initially contacted the PHS to see if it had tranquilizing equipment. He said the PHS told police that the agency doesn't typically deal with mountain lion incidents.
Dozens of residents gathered near the home to watch the commotion late this morning. When a news conference was held around midday, the crowd gathered closer to hear authorities brief the media.
As word spread through the crowd about the mountain lion's fate, there were gasps and some exclaimed, "They shot it?"
More than 600 residents were alerted about the mountain lion's presence through an automated phone call sent out this morning.
Camille Torres, who lives nearby, said she thinks it was smart to kill the mountain lion because it was in a residential area near a park and a hospital.
"If something happened, we'd all be saying, 'How come you didn't do anything?'" she said. "I'm all for saving the animal, but you never know what can happen."
Her friend and neighbor, Barbara Britschgi, disagreed, saying she was very upset the mountain lion was killed.
"They should still be able to put it in a cage for God's sake," she said. "There was more danger because of traffic that was going past than from the mountain lion."
After the cat was shot, Fish and Game agents loaded it into the back of a truck parked in the driveway of the home and eventually drove away.
No injuries to humans were reported.
Orr said there are 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions in California. Attacks on humans are extremely rare -- there have been only 14 verified mountain lion attacks on humans in California since 1890, he said.
"That said, mountain lions are a top-of-the-line predator, they're a very powerful animal," Orr said.
Anyone who sees a mountain lion can report it to the Department of Fish and Game. If there is a public safety threat, Orr advised residents to call 911.