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Park Mountain Lions Find Home at Zoo

August 21, 1986|GORDON GRANT | Times Staff Writer

A female mountain lion and her cub, captured at Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park near San Juan Capistrano last month, have found a home at a Utah zoo, a California Department of Fish and Game spokesman said Wednesday.

"I'm glad they're out of the state and behind bars," said Susan Small of El Toro, the mother of Laura Michele Small, 5, who was mauled by another big cat at the same park in March.

"I was afraid they might turn them loose in the wild around here where they could attack someone else," she said. "Putting them in a zoo is a good thing."

Laura, who suffered brain damage when lion fangs pierced her skull, is regaining her balance and walking and talking better, her mother said.

The lioness and her cub were caught July 5 not far from the trail where Laura was attacked, dragged into the bushes and mauled until a hiker beat the animal until it left. The next day, professional hunters killed a mountain lion believed to be the one that attacked her.

The captured mountain lion and cub were taken to a Fish and Game laboratory at Rancho Cordova near Sacramento where, according to technician Karen Jones, "the adult cat was as wild at the end of her stay as she was when she arrived here."

"She would hiss, snarl and bristle every time we approached her," she said. "It made the hair on your neck stand on end."

Last Thursday, under mild sedation, the 75-pound cat was put in a crate and the kitten in a separate pet carrier box. They were loaded onto a Western Airlines cargo plane and taken to Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City.

"The cats still are officially California state property," said Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Moore, "but we're presuming Utah will care for them the rest of their lives."

Meanwhile, Tony Gimbrone, district supervisor of Orange County parks, including Caspers, said no other mountain lions have been sighted.

"We think they might have gone farther back in the hills where there are more deer and more water at this time of year," he said.

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