A mountain lion was reported wandering through North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto last night, and after a pursuit by Berkeley police was shot at 3:26 a.m. on Walnut Street.

According to Sergeant Mary Kusmiss, the first reports of the mountain lion were received shortly after 2 a.m. A community member reported seeing the animal in the parking lot of the now empty Elephant Pharmacy. When police arrived to investigate, the mountain lion ran east up Cedar Street, jumped a fence into the playground of All Souls Episcopal Church on Spruce, and then entered a rear yard on Spruce. Police contacted the residents and advised them to “shelter in place”.

The animal was then spotted running onto Oxford Street, before moving to Walnut. When it went into the rear yard of 1634 Walnut, the residents offered their house and its rear porch to the police to locate the animal. Officers took two shots at the mountain lion with a patrol shotgun. The animal approached them and went into the driveway of the next door property at 1630 Walnut. An officer with a patrol rifle killed the animal there.

According to Fish and Game Warden Patrick Foley Foy, “It was a clear danger and the police took the necessary action.” According to Foley Foy, who serves in the Law Enforcement Division, it is “extremely rare” for a mountain lion to be found in an area as built up in the Bay Area. “I’ve never heard of a mountain lion in that kind of location,” he said.

The statement from BPD’s Kusmiss stated that, “Despite the sensitive nature of this event, we feel confident about the actions taken by the BPD Officers considering the totality of the events, when considering the densely populated area in which the animal was in, the homeless that sleep in the area, the overnight employees who clean businesses and the like, the adjacent schools and the northern Shattuck corridor. BPD believed that this Mountain Lion posed a significant public safety threat. BPD officers who have to dispatch animals find it challenging, but it is part of our duty to protect the community.”

A warden from Fish and Game who arrived after the animal was killed assessed the mountain lion as a 90- to 100-pound female. According to Foley Foy, that’s a full-sized animal for Northern California. In Canada, mountain lions are sometimes up to 200 pounds, he said.

Update To learn more about the what options the police had (or didn’t have), see our follow up story.

Photo by Tony Hisgett/Flickr

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...