ROHNERT PARK (CBS SF) -- A wayward mountain lion that prompted a lockdown Monday morning at two Rohnert Park middle schools was tranquilized and removed from the area, public safety officials said.
The Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety said both Evergreen and Lawrence Jones Middle Schools were locked down after a mountain lion was seen strolling along a nearby trail in the area of the Five Creek Trail and Crane Creek Trail just east of Eagle Park.
The mountain lion was seen wearing a tracking device and is known to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Rohnert Park DPS said.
Fish and Wildlife officers arrived Monday about 10 a.m. to tranquilize the lion and relocate it back to its regular roaming grounds. As of 10:47 a.m., the lockdown for Lawrence Jones Middle School had been lifted and the lockdown for Evergreen Elementary School was to end shortly.
DPS said it received a call Monday morning that the mountain lion was spotted on the creek path.
It's not hard to find the mountains beyond Evergreen Elementary and Fish and Wildlife officials say this lion wasn't wandering too far.
"Technically, the mountain lion was still in its home range," said Ken Paglia, public information officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It was on the very, very western edge of its home range and about 1,000-1,800 feet east of where it was seen, was wide open space. It wasn't really out of place."
The five-year-old female cat had been collared by a local researcher before and is believed to have some neurological problems.
"Our biologists observed it to be unsteady on its feet," said Paglia. "Something may have happened to the mountain lion in the past. It could have gotten into a car accident, it could've gotten into a fight, but it's not the healthiest lion."
"I came outside because I heard the helicopter and then my neighbors actually told me it's because there is a mountain lion in the creek," said Rohnert Park resident Taylor Tischbern.
Conservation advocate Josh Rosenau of the Mountain Lion Foundation says between the proliferation of cameras and people moving further into nature, these sightings are happening more often.
"A lot of people move out to be closer to those woods and then get a little bit surprised when suddenly things come out of the woods into their backyard," he told KPIX 5.
Over the last several months, mountain lion sightings have been on the rise across the Bay Area.
Mountain lions have been caught lurking in the shadows on security cameras in Millbrae. A handful of residents in the Oakland hills and Piedmont say they've seen mutilated deer carcasses in their neighborhoods. One wildcat was even caught in a tree in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood and transported to the Oakland Zoo while another broke into a San Bruno home filled with game trophies.
More than half of the state is mountain lion territory, and it's not too unusual to see them popping up in unexpected places, according to officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The species typically migrates during the dry season in search of ample food and water supplies, but they might be traveling further than usual as drought conditions are on the rise and deer populations are declining, department spokesperson Ken Paglia said.
"Be aware that we do share the state with other wildlife, like mountain lions or bears, they are around," Paglia said. "Even though they potentially can be dangerous, they're usually in the city because they're looking for food resources and they're not there to hurt us."
Despite the recent sightings being attacked by a mountain lion is a rare occurrence.
"We want to make sure the public is safe, but we also want the animal to be able to live out his life in its own habitat. That's probably the best solution," Paglia said.
Installing motion center lights around the property, keeping pets indoors at night and adequately storing feed supplies are some of the ways residents can avoid encounters with mountain lions. More tips and tricks from the Mountain Lion Foundation can be found at https://issuu.com/mountainlionfoundation/docs/cdfw_mlf_conflict_brochure_booklet_final_2020.
Andria Borba contributed to this report.
for more features.