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Mountain lion roaming Irvine plaza released into wild

A mountain lion that scared patrons at an Irvine plaza Tuesday has been released back into the wild.

The big cat was first spotted around 1:15 p.m. outside Bishops hair salon in the Sand Canyon Plaza, as it attempted to enter the shop. The salon receptionist quickly closed the door just in time, causing the animal to slam into a glass window and run away.

Irvine Police shared this image of a mountain lion on March 22, 2022.

An animal control officer shot the animal with a taser, but that didn’t stop the two-year-old mountain lion. The big cat walked right into another nearby business, called Morse Micro, walking past an employee and into their lab.

But shortly after, the animal control officers came in and tranquilized the mountain lion before taking it on a gurney to a vet for evaluation.

Later Tuesday, around 6:30 p.m., the mountain lion was released back into the wild, Dr. Scott Weldy of Serrano Animal & Bird Hospital in Lake Forest told KTLA. Weldy was present for the release along with Irvine police and animal control officers.

In video shared by Weldy, the young cat can be seen leaping out of its cage into an undisclosed mountainous and grassy area.

The animal was tagged with a GPS collar that reads “UC Davis” by the California Mountain Lion Project, which studies and tracks the movements and behavior of the animals.

The animal appeared to be 18-24 months old, in the middle of its dispersal period — the time in which a young mountain lion separates from the mother, the experts said.

The spotting comes just days after Lake Mission Viejo residents woke up to another big mountain lion walking around in their yard and then going for a leisurely dip in the lake. And Wednesday, another young mountain lion was struck by a vehicle and killed on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Irvine Police shared this image of a mountain lion on March 22, 2022.
Irvine Police shared this image of a mountain lion on March 22, 2022.

In recent years, there have been increasing interactions between people and mountain lions, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

People are advised not to crouch down or run away if they come face-to-face with a mountain lion, according to animal services.

Mountain lions are solitary and elusive, and typically avoid people by nature.

It’s not known why mountain lions venture out to neighborhoods, but wildlife experts say that as the human population expands into mountain lion habitat, there will be more frequent sightings. 

The agency offers this advice to any Californian who encounters a mountain lion:

  • Never approach a mountain lion. Give them an escape route.
  • Do not run. Stay calm. Do not turn your back. Face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger.
  • Do not crouch down or bend over.

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