Mountain lion captured by Fish and Wildlife at his home in Selma

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A 130-pound mountain lion was tranquilized outside a home in Selma on Monday morning after it was spotted wandering in a southeastern neighborhood of town near the hospital.

Officers were dispatched after a resident first spotted the cat around 7am

A second call arrived around 9:15 a.m.

That’s when the police found the cougar on Evergreen Avenue.

“He was taking a nap in someone’s front yard,” said Sgt. Cassy Fain.

“He was a big guy” with an extremely long tail.

The animal jumped through a security gate in a resident’s side yard, where officers watched it until California Fish and Wildlife arrived. The cat was tranquilized and taken for a health assessment, before being relocated to suitable habitat nearby.

“He’s alive and well,” Fain said.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife believe the animal may have followed the Kings River conduit into town. The region is still partly rural and surrounded by vineyards and other agricultural land.

A sighting like this is relatively rare, but it’s not unheard of, especially since the animals move near urban areas, said Ken Paglia of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“We sometimes spot cougars,” Paglia said.

“They are very elusive animals.”

Last year, a mountain lion attacked a dog in Woodside, a town between San Francisco and San Jose near a state park and several nature preserves. The dog recovered and the cougar was never captured. At the time, the Department of Fish and Wildlife estimated that between 4,000 and 6,000 cougars lived in California.

Ayub Salama was jogging in his neighborhood on Monday morning when he received a text message that someone had seen a mountain lion in the area. He quickly called his wife to pick him up and was driving home when his 10-year-old daughter, Zakeeyah, spotted the cat outside the car window.

“She was the one who saw the animal,” Salama said.

“That made his day.”

Salama captured a video of the cat on his cellphone inside his vehicle, which he later posted on Facebook.

It was the second time that Salama and her family had seen wild animals running around Selma.

Last summer, they spotted a wild fox near Selma High School.

“It’s super cool to be able to see them,” Salama said, although he knows it’s because the animals are losing their natural habitat. It was a “breathtaking experience” for Salama and his family, but the puma seemed out of his element and “petrified”, he said.

It’s something he hopes people will bear in mind if they go through a similar situation.

“Give the animal the respect and space it needs.”

The Department and Fish and Wildlife urge anyone who sees a wild animal to contact local law enforcement.

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Joshua Tehee covers breaking news for The Fresno Bee, writing on a wide range of topics from police, politics and weather to arts and entertainment in the Central Valley.

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