Santa Monica Mountain Lion: “When I Saw the Lion, I Ran”

A worker at Santa Monica College describes his encounter with a mountain lion

An equipment operator at Santa Monica College was in a courtyard area early Tuesday morning when he heard something scratching at a glass door.

He looked through the glass to see an 80-pound mountain lion looking back at him.

"I saw the lion and he saw me," said Rogelio Rodriguez, who works the early shift at the building on Second Street in Santa Monica. "When I saw the lion, I ran outside and closed the door.

"He walked behind me. I don't think he was trying to attack me, but that's why I ran outside and closed the door."

Rodriguez called campus police. Officers had just been in the area about 10 minutes earlier when there was no sign of the animal -- just a few potted plants.

"They didn't believe me," Rodriguez said.

So, he called Santa Monica police. They arrived at about 5:45 a.m. and waited with Rodriguez for Fish and Game agents, who used tranquilizer darts on the mountain lion about three hours later.

The mountain lion bolted after it was struck with a dart, prompting the use of lethal force by officers. It was fatally shot at about 9:15 a.m. as it tried to escape the courtyard.

"We deployed less-lethal pepper ball, we deployed fire hoses and the  animal continued to charge in (an) attempt to flee out of the courtyard,''  Santa Monica police Lt. Robert Almada said. "Regrettably, the animal was  euthanized in order to protect public safety.''

Candles, flowers and other items were left at a memorial for the mountain lion near the site of the shooting. A necropsy will be conducted to determine whether the animals had rabies or any other disease.

Mountain lions are monitored by the National Park Service. GPS radio collars and cameras track the animals, usually found about two miles away in the Santa Monica Mountains. The agency is studying how urbanization affects the cats.

Jeff Sikich, a biologist working on the study for the National Park Service, told the Associated Press a mountain lion had never been seen in the area where the animal was found Tuesday.  The mountain lion apparently wandered down from the mountains into urban Santa Monica and jumped the courtyard fence.

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