Earlier this week, a few people showed up at a Macy’s in Santa Rosa, California, to find a 40-pound mountain lion napping in a planter box. And while human contact with big cats in the suburban areas that border their natural homes is fairly common, this went down in the middle of a downtown urban area. So wildlife officials came to the mall around 9 a.m. that morning and shot the animal with four tranquilizers, waited for it to go back to sleep, and removed it from the mall.
It all went down without any wild or crazy events. Veterinarians and researchers tagged the animal and took some DNA samples before releasing it back into a “suitable habitat” north of Santa Rosa. Problem solved. Cased close. But the encounter’s left plenty of people curious about how a young mountain lion would end up at a downtown mall.
Mountain Lion Captured in Downtown #SantaRosa. Has been tranquilized by Fish and Wildlife, which will return it to the wild. They found it sleeping in a planter outside Macy’s at 5th and B Streets, this morning. #abc7now pic.twitter.com/3U8rHsXDdG
— Wayne Freedman (@WayneFreedman) April 29, 2019
“Maybe he was going to the Apple Store to upgrade his Sierra,” Greg Martinelli, state wildlife lands program manager, told the press.
After the joke, Martinelli explained that mountain lions start to leave their mothers somewhere between 10 and 18 months old. At that age, older adult males can be a threat to them in new territory, sometimes killing the younger animals, so they find themselves in “odd areas” to keep a safe distance. They look for trees and cover and will settle into drainages or creeks as a safe habitat. In this case, Martinelli speculates the animal wandered down the nearby Santa Rosa creek, strayed off looking for a smaller house cat or feral cat to feed on, and next thing it knew it was outside of a downtown mall.