Please note: MLF's coverage of the following story is based primarily on an article that originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.
After a day-long, self-guided tour of residences on the east side of Sacramento, a young, lost mountain lion eventually sought shelter in the "jungle-like" backyard of 74-year old Mabel Furr's North Oak Park home at the corner of 32nd and X streets, where he was captured late Saturday evening by members of the Sacramento police force and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
The one-and-a-half year old male mountain lion, weighing approximately 70 lb, was first spotted around 1:35 a.m. early Saturday morning near 58th and M streets. Sacramento police officers checked the area at that time, but were unable to locate the lion.
Almost two hours later, a report of a second sighting came in from a motorist who was following the big cat south on 36th Street from Folsom Boulevard. At around 4:00 a.m. while responding to that call, a Sacramento police lieutenant spotted the big cat at 36th and R streets. He watched it jump over a chain-link fence near Highway 50 and lost sight of it. At that time, animal-control officers were notified, and an automated call went out to area residents advising them of the potential hazard.
Shortly thereafter, with the coming of dawn, the lion must have gone to ground, because he wasn't spotted again until 10:21 p.m. Saturday evening, when a caller reported seeing it at 32nd and X streets. Police officers responding to the call eventually spotted the scared lion hiding inside Mrs. Furr's fenced yard while canvassing the area.
The officer notified Mrs. Furr of the situation and asked her to remain in her home while additional officers arrived to secure the area and they all waited for a CDFW warden to arrive.
"He said, 'There's a mountain lion in your backyard. Stay inside and do not come out,' " said Mrs. Furr. "I was kind of shocked but not afraid."
In fact, Mrs. Furr said that when she heard on the news earlier Saturday that the animal was last spotted at 36th and R streets, she half hoped that she would see it. "I thought to myself maybe he'll come down this way and take refuge in my yard," she said. "I was surprised that it came true."
It took a while for the four police officers to spot the animal in her backyard, which has dense foliage, but it was eventually seen hiding between a stack of tomato cages and a large saguaro cactus. "It was dark, and they were using flashlights," Mrs. Furr said. "It would be hard to find him."
"I think he had a rough night, and he didn't have anything to eat or drink, so he was willing to go with them and go back to the wild," she said.
Mrs. Furr said the police officers and the warden placed the animal on a piece of canvas and carried him out to a grassy spot next to the sidewalk. She said the mountain lion had its legs tied up, and she watched as the warden put some drops into the animal's eyes before blindfolding him.
"He didn't seem that big," she said. "I though he was about 60 pounds."
While Mrs. Furr didn't see the actual capture, her neighbor Ciana Yniguez, 52, had a front-row seat from a living room window overlooking Furr's garden.
Ms. Yniguez and a friend, Eric Navarro, 41, had just returned to Yniguez's home shortly after 11 p.m. Saturday. "We happened to turn on the TV and we hear that a mountain lion was spotted by police at 32nd and X streets," she said. "We looked out the window and we saw all the lights shining."
Ms. Yniguez said the police had been looking for the animal up in the trees before finally spotting it on the ground, about 15 feet from her open window. Mr. Navarro had wanted her to close the window, but she didn't think that was necessary. "I didn't hear it make any noise," she said.
She said she heard a soft "pop" when the mountain lion was tranquilized, and the officers waited for some time to make sure that the animal was out. She said she couldn't see more than a glimpse of its head when officers took the animal out of Mrs. Furr's back yard.
"It's a jungle out there," she said. "He found the perfect yard."
Ms. Yniguez said that since it was late, she didn't go outside to see the tranquilized animal. But she said she found the whole experience exciting.
"It's just another night in Oak Park," she said. "I don't know how he got so far away, that he was able to travel from east Sacramento to here without anyone seeing him. It's pretty unbelievable."
According to Tim Dunbar, Executive Director of the Mountain Lion Foundation, it's theorized that the young dispersing lion arrived in the Metropolitan Sacramento area by following the American River parkway out of the foothills east of town.
"If this incident had happened just a little over a year ago, the antics of that teenage lion would have resulted in his death as a threat to the public safety," said Mr. Dunbar. "It's thanks to Senator Hill, the successful passage of Senate Bill 132, the efforts of the Department of Fish and Wildlife to change policy, the professionalism of responding law enforcement officers and the support of the public that non-threatening lions such as this one can be given a second chance."
"Mountain Lion Foundation is thankful for the way the Sacramento police department and CDFW handled this unusual, and potentially life threatening situation without resorting to lethal measures."
The young mountain lion was moved out of town and released into the wild by a California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden after it recovered from the drugs used to tranquilize it.