OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA (REUTERS) - A young mountain lion shot by police died in surgery at a California zoo on Friday (Aug 26), a zoo spokesman said, after the animal was startled by a tranquiliser dart and jumped at a police officer in a suburban neighbourhood.
Oakland Zoo veterinarians received the lion, estimated to be a year old, shortly before midday and prepared it for emergency surgery, said zoo spokesman Erin Harrison.
A resident of Hollister, about 160km south of San Francisco, had spotted the lion on their front porch and called police at about 4.42am, the Hollister Police Department said in statement.
When California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers tried to tranquilise it, the lion ran out of a bush towards a police officer, officials said.
"Fearing for the life and safety of the officer, two officers fired their rifles at the mountain lion," the police statement said.
"We could not place the life of the animal above human life, which is why the officers fired their rifles at the scene."
The lion jumped a nearby fence into a side yard where it was tranquilised again.
Officers found a "pass-through bullet wound to its torso," said Mike Perin, spokesman for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"We did not consider the mountain lion to be a public safety threat. It had not acted aggressively," he said, noting that the goal was to return the animal to its habitat.
Zoo officials said the lion weighed about 34kg.
"He's beautiful, in great condition, well fed, everything good. Probably just a young guy questing for turf, like they do at that age," Alex Herman, vice-president of veterinary services at the zoo, said.
Prior to surgery, Herman was optimistic but conceded the risk.
"A lot of animals die from injuries like this," she said.