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Mountain lion released into Santa Cruz mountains

Mountain lion released into the Santa...

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - UPDATE 5/4/17 6:50 p.m. It's been a week since an 80 pound mountain lion was spotted in a tree in the East Cliff Village Shopping Center, leaving onlookers curious and some shop owners and schools on lockdown, while multiple agencies tried to remove him.

"I was kind of trapped inside they told me to stay,” said Sam Radestky, owner of Kajin MMA Eastside. “The sheriff's deputies told me to stay inside."

The large cat who officials said was scared, was eventually tranquilized for safety, fitted with a GPS collar and released into an undisclosed location in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

"He seems to be continually moving, to find his own area,” said Santa Cruz Puma Project Researcher Justine Smith.

His name is 84M because he is the 84th mountain lion that's been caught and collared since 2008 in Santa Cruz and he's a male. Researchers have also taken blood samples and measurements to learn more about his biology and life. 

"Hopefully we'll be doing a full pedigree soon so we can figure out who he's related to,” said Smith.

So far scientists believe he made his way into the city through nearby vegetation, to find his own habitat after being kicked out of his mom's territory. 

"Evolutionarily it makes more sense for the males to be far away from their female relatives so that they mate with other females and maintain genetic diversity in the population," said Smith.

Officials also said for the most part mountain lions are scared of humans and are not attracted to urban areas, but more industrialization in Santa Cruz has diminished their habitat.  

"It's kind of sad because their territory is going away and so their coming down in search of food,” said Santa Cruz resident Allison Baumsteiger. “For deer because the deer come into town too."

Other than helping 84M hopefully find his own place to call home, some said it's created a lot of awareness.

"It's great that there's apex predators like mountain lions,” said Radestky. “There's a lot of stuff in the world that humans have it pretty easy with and it's good that there are things out there that we should respect."

You will be able to track 84M’s journey on the Santa Cruz Puma Project’s website in about a month.

UPDATE 5/4/17 2:45 p.m. The young male mountain lion, dubbed 84M, was tracked and released into the Santa Cruz mountains Thursday. He is reported to be in good health. 

UPDATE 4/27/17 11:47 p.m.: A mountain lion sighting at a busy Santa Cruz shopping center sent nearby schools into lockdown mode and forced residents to shelter-in-place.

It took officers from multiple agencies more than three hours to capture the big cat.

The puma was hanging out on a tree at the entrance of East Cliff Village when it was spotted by a man walking his dog early Thursday morning. The man then called the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office.

Officers from California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Santa Cruz Puma Project also responded to the scene.

After two tranquilizer darts, the mountain lion tumbled to the ground.

Justine Smith, with the Puma Project, studies mountain lion behaviors and said the 80-pound cat might have just wanted some personal space.

"This is a younger male, so he probably just left his mom, and is trying to find his own area," Smith said.

The rare sighting drew dozens of spectators, who grabbed photos of the cat, some even took selfies with it in the background.

"We've never seen a mountain lion in this area at all and we've been here for a long time," said John Dowdell, who watched capture from afar.

Neighbors said they were more curious than scared, but the lion's innocent morning run also sent the shopping center on lockdown.

Curt Smeland owns a gym in the complex and was told to stay indoors for two hours.

"I did a good leg workout, and it involved a lot of running, jumping and hiding," Smeland said.

And he named the new routine “the mountain lion.”

Steve Shindler, from Fish and Wildlife, fired the tranquilizer shot and he said this couldn't have ended better.

"The lion stated where it was. It didn't end up being a public safety threat. It didn't run off," Schindler said.

Shindler said the puma is healthy and will be released into the wild soon.

The Santa Cruz Puma Project has been placing trackers on mountain lions to study them, and the one captured Thursday is number 84M. Those who want to keep an eye out for the cat can find him on the project’s website.

UPDATE 4/27/17 11:31 a.m.: According to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office, the mountain lion stuck in a tree at East Cliff Village Shopping Center, has been tranquilized and is currently asleep.

The animal will now be taken in by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and later released back into the wild.

Sergeant Chris Clark said the mountain lion is male and may be juvenile, weighing about 80 pounds. He said full grown mountain lions usually weigh between 120-150 pounds.

Several nearby schools were also placed on lockdown including Del Mar Elementary and Shoreline Middle School, according to Del Mar Elementary Principal Marilyn Rockey.

UPDATE 4/27/17 11:11 a.m.: A mountain lion, perched in a tree in the East Cliff Village Shopping Center in Santa Cruz, is being tranquilized soon.

According to Sergeant Chris Clark, the animal is stuck in a tree above the shopping center's sign display near East Cliff Drive and 17th Avenue

Residents and nearby businesses are being asked to shelter-in-place until the animal has been safely removed. People are also being asked to stay away from the area.

Clark also said representatives from fish and wildlife will take custody of the mountain lion.

People working with the Santa Cruz PUMA Project are also at the scene. Clark said SC PUMA plans to place a tracking collar on the animal.

According @santacruzpumas, the project is a partnership between UCSC and the California Department of Fish and Game to study mountain lion habitat fragmentation.

PREVIOUS STORY: A mountain lion sighting is causing businesses and residents near the East Cliff Village Shopping Center in Santa Cruz to shelter-in-place while the Sheriff's Office investigates.

According to James Hrica, owner of East Cliff Brewing Company, people are being asked to stay inside for their own safety and deputies are currently on scene.

KION has a crew on the way and this story will be updated when more information becomes available.

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