Nov 07, 2006
Humboldt State University students got a first-hand look at wildlife management techniques early this morning when a healthy young male mountain lion was cornered and captured under a small building near the University Library. HSU Wildlife Professor Dr. Rick Golightly was able to tranquilize the 80-pound animal with assistance from University PD, Arcata PD, Arcata Fire Department, and California Department of Fish and Game.
After a second dose of the tranquilizing drug, the cat was drowsy enough to be strapped to a rescue stretcher and pulled from the crawl space under the Warren House on Laurel Avenue. The mountain lion was then transported via a Fish and Game truck to a remote part of the county where it was released on public lands, a significant distance from inhabited areas.
Chief Thomas Dewey of the University Police Department said the resolution of this incident was a bit unusual. In a densely populated area, tranquilizing a mountain lion is not always feasible and a police officer or game warden is often required to shoot or euthanize a mountain lion in order to protect the public.
“We were just lucky to have an HSU professor right there,” said Patrol Lieutenant Rick Banko, who led the response from California’s Department of Fish and Game, and who is also an HSU alumnus.
“The outcome was ideal for everybody involved,” said Chief Dewey. “We were able to capture and relocate the animal without anyone getting hurt, including the lion.”
State and local officials believe that this mountain lion is the same one that has been seen prowling around the university and surrounding wooded neighborhoods, where potential prey such as house cats and raccoons are common. There were recent reports of mountain lion sightings from California Avenue to 11th Street. Until this morning, the lion reportedly ran away after being sighted.
He was spotted again this morning at about 4 a.m. near HSU’s Gist Hall Courtyard parking lot.
“This lion seemed to be getting more and more comfortable with people,” said Chief Dewey. “When night shift police officers spotted it south of Gist Hall, it was not intimidated, even stopping to groom itself, before disappearing into the shadows.”
Despite an emergency response to the campus by Lieutenant Banko, the mountain lion kept a low profile until about 8 a.m., as people arrived on campus, when it was reported to be moving near Laurel Avenue, south of the library. Police quickly responded and cordoned off the area. HSU Groundskeeper Steve Lee pointed out openings into the crawl space under the Warren House, and a careful check of the area revealed a pair of bright yellow eyes peering out from under the building.
The Warren House and surrounding area of the campus were briefly evacuated during the tranquilizing and extrication process.