Puma dies in surgery after being shot by police in California

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Aug 27 (Reuters) – A young puma shot dead by police died during surgery at a California zoo on Friday, a zoo spokesman said, after the animal was startled by a tranquilizer dart and jumped on an officer in a suburban neighborhood.

Oakland Zoo veterinarians received the lion, estimated to be one year old, shortly before noon and prepared him for emergency surgery, zoo spokeswoman Erin Harrison said.

A resident of Hollister, about 100 miles south of San Francisco, had spotted the lion on his porch and called police around 4:42 a.m., the Hollister Police Department said in a statement.

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When agents from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife attempted to tranquilize it, the lion ran from a bush towards a police officer, officials said.

“Fearing for the life and safety of the officer, two officers fired their rifles at the puma,” the police statement said. “We couldn’t place the animal’s life above human life, which is why officers fired their guns at the scene.”

The lion jumped a nearby fence into a side yard where he was again tranquilized. Officers found a “through-gunshot wound to the torso,” said Mike Perin, spokesman for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“We did not view the cougar as a threat to public safety. It had not acted aggressively,” he said, noting the goal was to return the animal to its habitat.

Zoo officials said the lion weighed around 75 pounds.

“He’s handsome, in great shape, well fed, all good. Probably just a young guy looking for grass, like they do at that age,” said Dr. Alex Herman, vice president of veterinary services at the zoo.

Before the surgery, Dr. Herman was optimistic, but conceded the risk. “A lot of animals die from injuries like this,” she said.

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Reporting by Nathan Frandino and Matt McKnight; Editing by Richard Chang and Chizu Nomiyama

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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