Mountain lion tours Gourmet Ghetto

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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  • How sad

  • Eric Panzer

    Majestic creatures though mountain lions are, it would have been very much sadder to have somebody severely injured or killed.

  • Eric – I agree – I think the Berkeley Police did the right thing, but it still is sad.

  • Regina Camargo

    I just don’t understand why they had to kill the animal. Why didn’t they use a tranquilizer gun and then released the animal in the wild? Very sad, indeed. They are such beautiful animals.

  • Diane

    Yikes! Glad the cat was inside.

  • Alan Tobey

    No doubt attracted by our very tame deer population that’s been fattening up on our landscaping and gardens even in the flatlands — hopefully our indiscriminate “rats on stilts” have now learned there’s nowhere safe in Berkeley . . . .

  • LOL @ “Rats on stilts” !

  • Georgia

    Why not a tranquilizer gun? Not enough time to retrieve one?

  • bird dog

    would have been great if the lion ate some bourge prat

  • crystal

    how disheartening. although i do think removing the animal from the premise was the right thing to do, i dont think it should have been done so by shooting her.

  • blue

    None acceptable.
    Please, provide with tranquilizer-guns to police. Not to be published email, please!

  • Nisha

    That bourge comment is pretty petty. Yeah, maybe the police didn’t have enough time to get a tranquilizer gun.. and I could understand the necessity for haste if the animal was wandering around neighborhoods. It’s sad though, too bad it couldn’t have been relocated. Of course, there is always the risk that a cat like that could try to come back to places with such a food supply, but the relocation could have been pretty faraway if it was needed.

  • Mike Farrell

    When a top predator from a species with a long history of human avoidance shows up in a densely populated area, Shattuck and Cedar, you kill that individual.

  • Seth

    Regina and Georgia: I’d bet on there not being time to retrieve a tranquilizer gun. I very much doubt that weapons suitable for tranquilizing a mountain lion are standard issue for Berkeley police cars.

  • Jenny Wenk

    While I agree these are beautiful animals to look at they are also extremely efficient predators. Alan is right in pointing out that our burgeoning deer population is a powerful attractant to mountain lions. And since this one had come down into the city it was probably pushed out of its territory in Tilden by other lions. Consequently tranquilizing it and releasing it into “the wild” leaves the question of where would you relocate it? And what would be its fate there? Mountain lions roam over a very large territory and they are very willing to make sure a new comer to that territory leaves, with or without significant wounds.

  • Morton Paley

    Why haven’t the police explained why they didn’t try a
    tranquilizer gun first?

  • Guy Micco

    Right, Regina and Georgia, why not a tranquilizer gun? The Berkeley police should have such available. Speaking of which, if the BPD finds it necessary to shoot a human, why not use these instead of “real” guns with live ammunition? In either case, isn’t the objective to incapacitate? or is it to kill? -guym

  • JOY


  • Jane Tierney

    So sad. I’m sure the officers were upset as well. How can anyone feel good about this? Berkeley Lab has had mountain lions spotted, but there is quite a bit of canyon and open land there. With all the deer, I’m sure it was drawn from the hills. Too bad.

  • Mike Farrell

    I feel good about it. Likely this is not the first time this mountain lion has ventured far down the hills
    It doesn’t belong here; it’s not mountain lion turf.
    It’s a sign that the cougar population is healthy; what will they eat when the deer population crashes? (It will)
    I’m not neutral in this. When they stay in the wildlands, fine. When they come into my neighborhood, too bad for them.

  • Kate

    Also, a dart gun is not the magic bullet everyone wishes it were. Cats especially are difficult to sedate–the drug sometimes has the opposite effect. I once saw a male African lion darted and he slumped down to sleep, but when the female was darted, she went bananas and was ricocheting off all near-by surfaces.
    It is a very sad event, of course.

  • Carol Buckles

    Isn’t this a wake up call to do something about the out of control deer population? In the last 15 years, the deer population has skyrocketed. Now it is not uncommon to see deer running down busy streets in the middle of the day (I once saw one in the late morning at the corner of Oxford and Hearst.) No wonder the mountain lions are coming down…this is where the deer are.

  • Caroline

    But did she have kittens…and where are they?

  • Carrie

    Have the police ever heard of tranquilizer rounds? It was completely unnecessary to kill this animal. Humans encroach on mountain lion territory and they get lost- nothing wrong with that. Mountain lions are so vital to wildlife ecology. They kill what we don’t want bringing disease into our neighborhoods and more. It would be much better for us in the long run to have returned this mama cat back to the woods.

  • Carrie, if the cat has learned that venturing among people yields rewards, you’re going to have some serious trouble returning it to the woods. Additionally, after you hypothetically knock it out with tranqs, hopefully pretty deeply but maybe not…. what are the next 10 steps and how much does it cost per month to be ready to take them? Also, should every care have a tranq gun? Or, do we just follow the cat around for an hour until the tranq gun shows up?

  • don robinson

    If any of you want to wait for a tranquilizer to take effect on a very annoyed cougar, you’re welcome to try it. You’ll get your Darwin Award for that. The police did their job well.

  • Chris Ahlgren

    While so few of these animals continue to exist on this planet (while so many of us just keep multiplying) it is a sad day when we feel we need to shoot one down. I know people felt threatened and this seems like a crazy occurrence but remember that “Berkeley” was their home long before we ever stuck that name on this place. Thomas Lord- yes, you wait an hour.

  • Don’t forget – we had a deer attack a neighbor and her dogs in Thousand Oaks only a few months ago.

  • Floatingclouds

    Reading the snide obnoxious title to this article, and the equally snide, obnoxious, self-possessed, elitist attitudes of most of the comments; makes me ashamed to live in Berkeley. Perhaps the police had no choice, I don’t have all the information on that. I am anxious to hear what an expert on the subject of mountain lions has to say before I make a snap judgment. I would have liked to have seen this beautiful animal saved (by any means necessary) if at all possible. “To achieve justice, profiling of all kinds — including animal profiling — must become a thing of the past.” Although I could easily and gleefully profile the inhabitants of the gourmet ghetto. But I won’t waste my energy, it would only make me want to vomit.

  • Floatingclouds: you didn’t like my headline. That’s your right. But if you read the post you’ll see I did talk to an expert on mountain lions, the game warden Patrick Foley. It was his opinion that the Berkeley police did the right thing.

  • Big John

    Well that SUCKS! There’s not a whole lot of these beautiful animals left and now one less thanks to chicken sh*t police! I know, “it was a clear danger…” That’s what they always say… just before they wet themselves and kill something or someone.

    If we have wild cats nearby that may occasionally venture into town, then we need to have expertise for dealing with them without killing. Any slaughter of an innocent creature is cause for mourning, not applause!

    Too bad Berkeley can’t live up to it’s “progressive” image in this and other instances concerning the natural environment (take tree trimming for another example…. but I’ll regress here). At least they could have called an expert for advice, instead of going for their guns, as is all too often the case for police dealing with animals or people. Almost any animal, large or small, will try to run away from humans before trying to defend themselves by attacking. This unfortunate creature just needed to be sent back to it’s own environment.

    As for the Darwin Award… nature bats last my friend.

  • doggurl

    Of course the BPD didn’t have a way to tranquilize the lion but it is amazing to hear Berkeley residents, who love this city because of the “diversity” and all that comes with it, believe that a majestic animal like a mountain lion should be killed so that they can all sleep peacefully at 3:30 am …..?!!!
    And calling deer rats on stilts? come on! have you ever looked at what Berkeley looked like when all you Berkeley good thinking citizens moved in?
    I find this event to be a really sad statement for all of us

  • M. Power

    Disgusted. All they ever do is kill, kill, kill. Get a plan man. Haven’t wild animals been driven to the brink of extinction enough? Get a grip I’m over the worldly wise discussion. Just stop shooting innocent animals Godammit!!!

  • Big John

    Lance, your headline could have been more sensitive the death of a rare and noble animal! As I stated earlier, we should be mourning, not bloating over this unfortunate incident.

    The way I read it, ‘you’ spoke an “expert”. The Berkeley police didn’t.
    Although I can’t imagine an “expert” on large rare cats would say ‘yeah, the best thing to do is kill it’!

    Try getting the police to help with a lost deer in the neighborhood.
    ‘Nothing they can do’ will be the response. If it gets ran over by a speeding car (and how many cars on NOT speeding on our streets these days), they’ll come and pick it up. Oh so helpful.

    I won’t say I have the statistics to prove it, but I’d bet my hard earned cash (and I’m not a gambling man) that speeding cars cause more injuries and deaths than the occasional visiting mountain lion. I just hope the police don’t start shooting speeders. Though it would be nice if they pulled them over, at least for a warning, now and then.

  • Big John

    Ira: “In a separate incident, the Oakland police shot and killed a deer that had wandered into a backyard in Oakland last weekend, although there had been no attack and apparently no motive for the shooting.”

    I’m just sayin’….

  • Jim Hansen

    My understanding is that these cats require a large area as their habitat. As with bears, when you “relocate” the animal you are moving it into another’s turf. As has been noted above, they aren’t normally seen, especially walking in Gregoire’s neighborhood. On the other hand as noted by others above, the out of control deer population would seem the perfect enticement for a mountain lion to abandon it’s cover in the hills.

    As for the comment that “they were here before us” does that suggest we should reintroduce Brer Griz to the hills to restore nature? Can only imagine the uproar if the cat had been returned to it’s Tilden home only to reappear and actually attack a someone.

  • Floatingclouds

    ‎”Pat Foy, a state game warden, says he has not ruled out that the female lion was being kept as an illegal pet since no lions have been spotted in Berkeley in recent years.” from Seattle Times

  • I want those trigger-happy !@#$@#$# to come and explain to my kids why they killed a rare and beautiful animal.

    When are these fools going to understand that we have an obligation to protect Nature?

    I am disturbed and dismayed. I thought we lived in a more enlightened city than that.

  • laura menard

    A few years ago in the fall a mountain lion crossed the road in front of my car just past the Tilden park golf course in route to the Park Hills neighborhood around 8:30 pm. Two distinct features made me realize the large cat was a mountain lion, the long tail and the position of the head lower that the big shoulders. Awesome!

    Over ten years ago, we saw a mountain lion at a far distance in Wild Cat Canyon late in the day.

    Just last week one of my brothers saw a mountain lion drinking in the Truckee river from the window of the California Zephyr heading back to Colorado.

  • Timothy Doran

    A mountain lion could kill your baby. They are fast, stealthy, and can hide. They cannot be allowed to roam around. Cops do not carry mountain lion paralyzers on their belts. Cops are not Supermen. They cannot guarantee the safe capture of a predator. Stop insulting the cops. Get a life.

    Yes, it is sad that the lion died. It would be infintely sadder if a human being died. Get a life, hippies. Find something more important to worry about.

  • EBGuy

    Michael Pollan + crossbow + surplus deer population = venison on the menu. Can’t get more local than that…. But I digress. It may be a good time to review what to do when you encounter a mountain lion outside Chez Panisse: offer him your reservation. No, wait — act big, really big!

  • M. Lion

    The saddest thing is that the mountain lion didn’t have a chance to thin out the ranks of the panhandlers and street thugs that pollute the neighborhood before getting shot. She should have been given a last meal.

    I’m waiting for the day a new life form (most likely a bacteria, virus, etc.) evolves that sends the human race to a gradual but inevitable extinction, so that humankind is forced to experience the plight that thousands of other species face today.

  • BerkeleyMom

    A couple of years ago my brother-in-law was visiting from Germany. As a chronic insomniac and late night smoker, he was sitting in our garden at Shattuck Ave. and Walnut street at 3am where he claimed to have seen a mountain lion! We all laughed at him as we surfed the web looking for photos of dog breeds that he might possibly have mistaken for the lion.

    Could he have been right about what he saw? And has this animal been wandering North Berkeley for years? My brother-in-law was dead certain about what he saw and talks about it to this day. I will forward him your post!

  • WTF

    Are you kidding me? Didn’t you guys ever watch “when animals attack?” Tranqs only get used when the animal is hiding in a tree/telephone pole or running around for a few hours because it takes time to bring in a tranquilizer gun, a sharpshooter, and an expert to calculate and load up a dosage. Cops do not keep tranquilizers in their cars or are trained to set them up for the one time in forever a dangerous animal show up in Berkeley.

    If they had the luxury of time, the cat would have been more likely to get the dart. Obviously the situation did not allow for such an event, which is why they shot it with bullets.

  • Jon

    A few years ago, I was coming down from running in Tilden on a Friday afternoon and saw a mountain lion on Cedar just above Euclid. I always get a little concerned running alone on the fire trail in Strawberry when the mountain lion warnings are posted and even when they are not. I have been chased by aggressive deer in the past. One with antlers took off after me up Shasta on one occasion from Keith to just before Cragmont.

  • Oscar

    Sad but probably few options, tranquilizer darts are not likely to be effective instantaneously and in those few moments police are facing an already stressed out, now po’d very dangerous animal. I think BPD did what they’re supposed to do, protect the area and themselves.

  • Rebecca

    It’s quite rare in the modern world that a wild population of large predators increases. So we’re actually doing pretty well on the mountain lion front. I’m a lot more miffed about that tiger at the SF zoo. The world’s wild tiger population will never bounce back.

  • Big John

    If it’s Ok to kill a mountain lion in town, I suppose then it’s alright for mountain lions to eat a hiker or 2 in Tilden.

    The reality is most likely that this or maybe other mountain lions roam the streets, mostly un-noticed, on many occasions. Probably just wandered off in a wrong direction or got spooked by a car speeding down Grizzly Peak Rd.

    It’s sad that wild animals are decidedly guilty until proven innocent.

    As for the info on “When Animals Attack”… LOL!
    Get out from behind your tv pal, it’s not real!

    I do like the Michael Pollan >>> venison comment though.

  • Maureen Burke

    Does anyone remember the mountain lion incident in Palo Alto a few years ago? I think a cat was treed near an elementary school. Don’t recall if it was tranquilized or killed. There are numerous mountain lions who make frequent visits to Portland, OR households from nearby Forest Park. A friend told me first signs of their visits were the sudden proliferation of “Missing Kitty” signs in the neighborhood. Maybe BPD would find it useful to contact the Portland police dept and see how they handle those incidents.

    There have been quite a few sightings of mountain lions in and around Tilden Park. They seem to be mostly along upper Selby Trail, near the golf course. There have also been deer bones found near Lake Anza that were gnawed by some animal with very large teeth.

    It would be a good idea to analyze stomach contents of the cat and also see whether it was rabid. It is very hard to believe anyone would keep such an animal as a pet.

    There are so many deer in Tilden Park and adjacent neighborhoods, what would cause the mountain lion to leave? Would the population density of mountain lions in Tilden require this one to seek new territory? Wow.

  • Gulp

    Very disturbing, maybe the policeman meant to use his taser gun instead, however he won’t have to explain that one to a judge.