LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A mountain lion ventured into the center of a crowded Southern California city on Tuesday, and was shot and killed when authorities had trouble corralling the animal in the courtyard of a building, police said.
It was not immediately clear how the 3-year-old mountain lion weighing about 75 pounds (34 kg) ended up in the middle of the beachside city of Santa Monica, which lies just west of Los Angeles.
Police received a call from a janitor who spotted the predator at about sunrise, a block away from a pedestrian thoroughfare called the Third Street Promenade that during the day is filled with shoppers and street performers.
The giant cat ended up in the courtyard of a building a few hundred feet from a bluff overlooking the beach, with Santa Monica police officers and California Department of Fish and Game wardens at the scene.
"A variety of means were used to try to keep the animal back inside the courtyard area," Santa Monica police spokesman Lieutenant Robert Almada said.
"We deployed less-lethal pepper ball, we deployed fire hoses, and the animal continued to charge in (an) attempt to flee out of the courtyard. Regrettably, the animal was euthanized in order to protect public safety."
Santa Monica police Lieutenant Calisse Lindsey said it was the first time she could remember such an incident in her 24 years in the department.
The densely populated city is several miles south of the Santa Monica Mountains, an area that is home to many different kinds of wildlife including mountain lions.
Madeline Bernstein, president of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, said her organization was "dismayed" with the killing of the mountain lion.
"Basically, they agitated and frightened a cornered cat before they killed her," she said.
(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)