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Update: Wayward Mountain Lion Captured In San Francisco Released Back Into Wild

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A wayward mountain lion that was captured near Oracle Park Thursday morning was taken to the Oakland Zoo for an examination prior to being safely released in the wild in the afternoon, officials said.

UPDATE: San Francisco Zoo Marsupials Found Dead; Captured Mountain Lion Possible Culprit

Captured SF mountain lion examination
Captured SF mountain lion examination (Oakland Zoo)

The big cat was released in a wilderness preserve by California Fish and Wildlife following the examination at the Oakland Zoo, according to zoo officials.

The animal had been captured by police and animal control officers in the city's Mission Bay neighborhood not far from the home of the San Francisco Giants early Thursday.

Authorities said the mountain lion was spotted lying in the bushes near Channel St. and 4th St. When San Francisco police officers arrived, the big cat made a run for it.

The disoriented cougar roamed the streets for two days until he was spotted by a police officer near Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, said Officer Adam Lobsinger, a police spokesman.

Officers set up a perimeter and waited for animal control officials to arrive. Using a net, they safely captured the 50-pound cat around 6:30 a.m. in an apartment building's green area with lots of shrubbery without the use of sedatives, Animal Care and Control spokeswoman Deb Campbell said.

On Twitter, Animal Care and Control declared humorously "2020 isn't a total dumpster fire, the San Francisco mountain lion has been captured and will be released in a wild area with lower rent." Officials also said there were no injuries.

After being captured, the cat was taken to the Oakland Zoo where the animal was examined prior to being returned to the wild by officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Captured SF mountain lion examination
Captured SF mountain lion examination (Oakland Zoo)

Photos and videos shared by the Oakland Zoo showed the big cat being pulled from the case it had been transported in and placed on an examination table for a full health evaluation.

Zoo officials said he arrived at the zoo upset, frightened and aggressive. They think he may be related to a female mountain lion who was killed on 101 in San Francisco a few days ago. 

A plastic mask placed over the mountain lion's face likely provided the cat with oxygen and possibly a sedative to keep it unconscious during the procedure. He was fitted with a tracking collar so he can be monitored.

Just after 5 p.m. the Oakland Zoo tweeted that after the mountain lion was examined and treated, Dr. Alex Herman deemed he was healthy. Fish and Wildlife personnel then took him to an open preserve and he was safely released back into the wild. 

Dr. Alex Herman with the Oakland Zoo said the Zoo's veterinary hospital had treated over a dozen mountain lions in the past few years.

"Unfortunately, we see a fair number of orphaned mountain lions in California due to the deaths of their mothers. They usually stick with their moms until about two years old," explained Herman.

Hermon also told KPIX 5 that providing examinations and treatment to mountain lions like the one brought in Thursday is expensive, especially with the Oakland Zoo in funding crunch during the extended COVID-19 closure that started in March.

Earlier this week, KPIX 5 reported on the dire financial straits many Bay Area zoo are currently in due to the coronavirus closure. Parties interested in helping a good cause with a donation during these trying times can give to the Oakland Zoo's Animal Care Fund.

The lion is likely the same one that has been reported by residents over the last few days, but has eluded capture by police and animal control officers.

"In 24 hours, it only moved a few blocks. The poor guy really needed some help," she said.

Campbell said mountain lion sightings are not uncommon in San Francisco and officials get reports of cougars about once a year. The animals come up along the Pacific Coast from the hills south of the city but eventually find their way back to the wilderness.

"We never had a mountain lion right in the middle of downtown San Francisco," Campbell said.

Officials had been eyeing his movements since Tuesday, when a motorist first reported seeing it in Russian Hill, a neighborhood known for the famously crooked Lombard Street.

Hours later, surveillance cameras recorded it crossing the parking lot of a television station in the Embarcadero and soon after, it was spotted again in an area of gleaming office towers.

Officials worried the animal wouldn't find its way south and asked residents in the area to send in any photos or video of the cat so they could monitor its movements.

Photo and video images show it crossing streets and walking among apartment building and office towers.

"It was looking in windows, looking at his reflection or something. Maybe he thought it was his mom or brother or sister," Campbell said.

Police sent out a tweet urging people to stay vigilant.

"It is likely the mountain lion is confused and lost, and will soon find its way south and out of the city," San Francisco police tweeted late Wednesday. "If approached by the mountain lion make yourself appear big and shout. Remain vigilant and use caution outdoors."

Authorities said it had been previously spotted in the East Cut neighborhood just south of the Financial District.

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