A trip to the beach ended badly for a mountain lion that wandered into Santa Monica Tuesday morning.
Fearing the 75-pound animal would bolt from a courtyard near the where it was contained for most of the morning, authorities shot and killed the lion. Police and Fish and Game wardens used tranquilizers first, but said attempts to keep it from escaping, including using fire department hoses and pepper balls, were unsuccessful.
"The animal continued to charge in [an] attempt to flee out of the courtyard," said Santa Monica Police Sgt. Robert Almada. "Regrettably, the animal was euthanized in order to protect public safety.''
The mountain lion's body is being taken to the California Wildlife Center in Calabasas, where it will be examined, according to Executive Director Cindy Reyes.
It was still unclear exactly how the animal wound up just two blocks from the beach.
Fish and Game Patrol Capt. Daniel Sforz speculated that it could have trekked over night from the Santa Monica mountains across green belts, such as golf courses and parks.
"It's very unusual," he said of a mountain lion travelling into a city.
The Santa Monica Police Department first received a call at 5:45 a.m. about a large cat walking down Arizona Avenue, followed by another call at about 6 a.m. from a maintenance man who cleaning the property at 1227 Second St.
“When I pulled out the trash bag, I saw the cat come to where I was,” the janitor, Rogelio Rodriguez, told the Los Angeles Times. Rodriguez told the paper that he then ran to call police.
When officers arrived, they found the animal, a 2-year-old male, enclosed inside the courtyard by 6-foot tall glass doors. They summoned the Santa Monica Fire Department, Santa Monica Animal control and the California Department of Fish and Game.
At about 9:15 a.m. at least four loud shots rang out through downtown. Almada said a variety of means were used to try to keep the animal back inside the courtyard area.
"We started darting it, but it wasn't taking effect immediately, so we shot it," said Sforz.
Venice resident Bill Dyer, the Southern California Director of In Defense of Animals, questioned why authorities didn't use additional means to keep the mountain lion alive.
"What's the rush? Why couldn't they have waited?" he asked.
Sforz said authorities' first priority is public safety.
"Generally speaking mountain lions are not dangerous," he said, but there was the possibility that it could have lept over the glass doors and onto the street. Judging by his teeth, the mountain lion would have hunted full-grown deer, he added.
"We did our best," Sforz said. "Our main concern is public safety."
Santa Monica Police Sgt. Robert Almada said he has responded to calls about coyotes before, but never a mountain lion.
Second Street was closed between Wilshire Boulevard and Arizona Avenue until about noon.