A 100-pound feline prowled Salt Lake City’s Jordon Commons Mall last Friday, and it was certainly not a house cat. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the big predator wandered onto the shopping center’s parking lot and got close to the building, enough to send some shoppers and employees running.
“At first I saw it was a big dog,” said Jann Smith, who was among the first to spot the animal. “Then it dawned on me it was a mountain lion […] I was definitely surprised, I wasn’t sure what to do.”
What Smith did do was notify the authorities. Local police and conservation officers from the Utah Division of Wildlife (DWR) arrived at the scene with the intent of tranquilizing the big cat.
At one point the mountain lion was caught on tape hiding in the shadow of an alcove, before darting off. Police say the animal moved back and forth between the shopping center’s buildings using bushes for cover. Although wildlife officials said the animal did not seem to display any aggressive behavior, its quick movements did startle shoppers who came upon the animal unexpectedly. It was enough to provoke one officer to fire at it after the cat suddenly jumped and ran in the presence of several bystanders.
“We were all standing out there watching him, seeing what would happen, suddenly saw the cop start raising his shotgun,” mall employee Adam Haymond told KUTV.
The shot missed and the cougar bedded down underneath some bushes near the TRAX light rail lines close to the mall. Shortly afterwards DWR officers were able to tranquilize the animal and transport it out of the area on a stretcher.
After determining that the cougar was not aggressive towards humans, the DWR had planned to release the animal back into the wild. However, the cougar died as a result of complications from the tranquilizer. Wildlife officials said that animals occasionally die after being tranquilized, though it is uncommon. Mountain lions are known as elusive and solitary predators, and will usually avoid densely-populated areas like where Jordon Commons is located. DWR biologists will be analyzing the cat to see if it had any illnesses that may have contributed to its death.
You can see video of the cat below: