A 113-pound mountain lion gave clients at an Irvine hair salon a shock on Tuesday afternoon as he darted past the shop – and then ran straight into the glass.
“I was standing at the front desk and a client says, ‘Oh my God,’ said Elliot Matthews, an employee at Bishops Cuts and Colors in Sand Canyon Plaza. “All I saw at first was this big thing and a tail.”
Matthews moved quickly to shut the front door of the store. Everyone in the shop got a closer look when the mountain lion ran into the glass. The store went into temporary lockdown while law enforcement authorities tried to contain the animal.
“Surprisingly, people were still getting their hair cut,” Matthews said.
At one point, the cougar was spooked by something and ran into another building with an open door, said Rebecca Barboza, a wildlife biologist with the California Fish and Wildlife Department.
— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) March 22, 2022
People inside that building were able to scramble to another floor, but the mountain lion had no way of leaving, and a veterinarian was able to get close enough to tranquilize him.
“The cat was trying to get out and trying to find a place to go, so it was just sitting in corners and it climbed up on tables,” said Dr. Scott Weldy of Serrano Animal & Bird Hospital.
Weldy gave him the jabs – a dart at first, and then a supplement to fully knock him out.
The clinic represents the veterinary part of Irvine Animal Control. Welby has done over 500 immobilizations of mountain lions over the years, he said.
After he was sedated, the cougar was transported to Weldy’s clinic for a check-up and to be collared for future tracking.
A wild scene in Irvine early this afternoon as a mountain lion ran through a busy shopping center before running inside an office building. The mountain lion was then tranquilized by animal control and transported to a local veterinarian. No one was injured @CBSLA pic.twitter.com/B6deSVJLZ1
— Chris Ercoli (@CErcoliCBS2KCAL) March 22, 2022
The California Mountain Lion Project, led by Dr. T. Winston Vickers, has been studying mountain lions in Southern California since 2001. Researchers have placed GPS collars on mountain lions to collect data about their diet, habitat health, and behavior.
Most of the mountain lions found near residential areas are young males trying to find new territory away from their mother’s area, Vickers said.
Three years ago in Irvine around this time of year, a mountain lion was captured in someone’s backyard and was transported into the mountains. A week later, it was killed on the I-5.
“This happens kind of regularly, where ever, it’s not just here,” Vickers said. “Where ever you have development that comes up against wild areas.”
Researchers estimate the mountain lion that showed up on Tuesday was probably 16-20 months of age based on his weight – 113.7 pounds, typically the age range when the mountain lions disperse.
Because they have kittens year-round, kittens can reach dispersal age at any time of the year, Vickers said.
Typically, the animals are not a threat, but just trying to find a home. People who encounter a mountain lion should make themselves large and loud.
“It looked very confused, it didn’t look like it wanted to attack,” Matthews, from the salon, said. “Just wanted to get away from people.”
No people were reported injured, said Irvine Police Sgt. Mike Meyers.
The mountain lion will be released in a habitat with plenty of space, a water source, and near deer. The department does not give specific locations for where they release animals.
Over the weekend, a mountain lion was spotted taking a swim in Lake Mission Viejo after spending some time outside a nearby home.
It wasn’t clear if it was the same cougar, but it’s possible given the proximity and timing.
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