Mountain lion roaming San Francisco's Bernal Heights captured, taken to zoo

It was a wild night for people living in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood. They watched from their windows as a mountain lion was tranquilized and captured just steps from their front doors.

"It was pretty shocking," said neighbor Ruth Ferguson. "At first I thought it probably wasn’t real because we couldn’t see the mountain lion at first. Obviously, there was a lot of commotion and then saw it on my neighbor’s front porch. It was pretty wild."

The animal was spotted in a tree on Santa Marina Street near Mission street around 10:30 p.m. The street is lined with homes, apartments, and businesses. A mountain lion had been spotted in Bernal Heights and in the city’s Portola District over the past couple of days, but residents were still shocked to see the wild animal in such an urban area.

"I came outside to take my garbage out and there was a man sitting in a car who yelled at me to go back inside, there’s a cougar in the tree," said neighbor Zach Ellenberg. Neighbors texted and shouted from their windows to alert others, and warned residents to stay inside.

Police closed off the street. Officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife were called to the scene and were seen with tranquilizer guns.

Lt. James Ober fired the dart that took down the big cat. 

"It would be very difficult for the lion to leave on its own," said Ober. "The decision was made to immobilize the mountain lion."

The mountain lion fell out of the tree and then ran up the steps to San Francisco resident Greg DeMeza’s stoop. 

He watched from an upstairs window as the cat was sedated, and loaded onto a gurney. 

"I actually saw the lion on my stoop looking through the window, through the glass. It was pretty trippy," said DeMeza. "I didn’t’ want to turn on any lights or scare them. Anyway, I just feel sorry for the animal."

The mountain lion arrived at the Oakland Zoo in the middle of the night. 

Dr. Alex Herman, the vice president of veterinary services at the Oakland Zoo, examined the animal. 

"This is a beautiful, 2-year-old male mountain lion. He looks very healthy. He has been radio-collared by UC Santa Cruz," said Herman. "It looks like he came out of the Santa Cruz mountains and got lost in San Francisco. And he’s young, too. So he probably recently separated from his mother."

Herman said veterinarians took blood work and administered vaccines. A wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will release the mountain lion back into the wild in an undisclosed location.

This is the Oakland Zoo’s 15th mountain lion rescue in less than three years. Two of the cougars still live at the zoo.

Officials unload a mountain lion at the Oakland Zoo. May 20, 2021 

The mountain lion that was once roaming in San Francisco was taken to the Oakland Zoo. May 20, 2021