California Department of Fish and Wildlife is transporting a tranquilized mountain lion from a backyard in Santa Barbara to a nearby natural area in the Los Padres National Forest.
The home on Apple Grove Circle where the lion was sighted early the morning of Monday, January 7, 2013, is immediately adjacent to a large golf course that is connected by several small greenbelts to the Los Padres National Forest just a mile and a half to the north.
Julia Di Sieno, Executive Director of Animal Rescue Team, was onsite and reporting via telephone to the Mountain Lion Foundation. According to Julia "They used darts to tranquilize the animal, and if it is healthy, hope to relocate it. A local vet was available to make the health determination."
"Two wardens with tranquilizer guns took a four wheel drive from the back of the house, where there is a very small greenbelt and fairly dense undergrowth. Wardens were also stationed in the backyard with the lion. They used a fire department ladder to aim darts down on the lion."
CDFW Captain Steffanik is at the location, as is Scott Cohen, the local Santa Barbara warden, who is a biologist.
Prior to tranquilizing the lion, a Captain from the Santa Barbara Police Department assured media and interested residents that they were doing everything they can to use nonlethal methods to address the situation.
The lion likely followed a natural landscape feature down from the mountains and became blocked when confronted with more dense urban neighborhoods. Lions will seldom leave existing territories that have abundant food unless they are dispersing young animals searching for a territory of their own. Given the chance to return to the wild, most lions will do so come nightfall. Mountain lions are 'crepuscular': most active in periods of low light like dusk and dawn.
Department of Fish and Wildlife evaluated the situation in light of public outcries following the recent deaths of lions in Santa Monica, the Sierra Nevada Foothills and Half Moon Bay. Relocation of mountain lions is often possible, but is less likely to occur unless wardens and local first responders are immediately aware of people's desires to see these animal saved.
The mountain lion (also known as cougar) may have been close enough to a school and neighboring properties to have warranted the cautionary notice of the situation where "Residents with small pets and children are urged to stay indoors." Residents were also urged not to panic.