Mountain lion tranquilized and captured in San Mateo backyard

California Fish and Wildlife tranquilized the 90-pound cougar, which they said was about two years old.

It was transported from the downtown neighborhood in the back of a warden's pickup truck, sedated and very sleepy, but otherwise healthy.

"If you drive up Interstate 280 there are all kinds of lions, " Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan told KTVU at the intersection of Palm Avenue and 9th Avenue where the animal was located, just a block off busy El Camino Real.

"It's very unusual to find a lion this close to downtown," Hughan acknowledged. "And we don't really have an explanation of why. Something smelled good to it last night. So it just continued to follow the food which is what lions do."

All afternoon and into Monday evening, the big cat eluded police officers as they went house to house with warnings and searched backyards.

The young animal was spotted several times Monday. The first call came at 4 a.m. when a police officer saw it. Additional calls came at about 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. when residents in the vicinity of Hayward Avenue saw it. 

The mountain lion wasn't described as agitated or aggressive. It was simply walking along every time.

"I guess it was in my garage," area resident Alex Arevalo told KTVU. "I came by, couldn't get in and they said there was a mountain lion behind my apartment building, I was like, 'What?'"

As officers canvassed the neighborhood with guns drawn, many residents expressed concern that the wayward lion would be hurt.

"I'm hoping for the best outcome," resident Chris Wackerman told KTVU. "I would not want to see them shoot it or anything like that. Relocation is the thing to do."

Relocation was always the hope in such situations, but it's never automatic in such a populated area.

When the mountain lion was finally cornered in the backyard of a house on Palm Avenue at about 7 p.m., officers and wardens had rifles trained on it so it could not escape again.

A warden took two shots with tranquilizer darts. The first one missed, but the second on hit the lion in the thigh. It jumped from the tree it was in and ran, causing officers to dash after it down the street.

From that point though, authorities could see the animal hiding in some bushes. They simply waited for it to fall asleep.

Fish and Wildlife said the big cat was a juvenile that has probably been living on its own for at least a year. It is still 40 pounds away from being fully grown.

The mountain lion will wake up at the Crystal Springs Reservoir, under the watchful eyes of wardens Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

"They'll just wait for it to wake up and they'll unhobble it and it will make its way into the woods with a little hangover," said Hughan. "But in a couple of hours, it will be fine."

Because of the rushed situation, there was no time to put a tracking device on the mountain lion, to see if it makes its way back into the area.

Hughan said he does not believe the drought caused the cat to wander so far from its habitat. He said the area around the reservoir is full of deer, so there's plenty of food to keep mountain lions satisfied.

One unidentified man in the neighborhood was detained and may face charges of unlawfully discharging a firearm. He told police he fired his handgun at the ground when he saw the mountain lion because he wanted to scare it.