Nature paid a visit at Coto de Caza when a mountain lion cub wandered into a backyard in the gated community. Officials said they weren't sure how the 62-pound cub managed to negotiate fences and wind up there, but they weren't surprised.
"They can jump real well," said Patrick Moore, spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Game. "House cats can get over some of these fences, so mountain lions can certainly get over them--even if they're 7 or 8 feet tall."
Coto de Caza's private security force kept residents away from the animal until Orange County Animal Control officers arrived at the home off Vista del Verde near the golf course. The lion was tranquilized, captured and held overnight, then released into the nearby wilderness area Friday morning.
"We decided it really wasn't a threat to public safety. It wasn't going after anybody. It was trying to get out," said Dr. Richard Evans, chief of veterinary services for the county Health Care Agency, which oversees Animal Control.
The cat was a female about 8 months old, said Evans, who examined the cub and found it to be in excellent health.
Mountain lions, because of their size, sharp teeth and claws, can be dangerous but do not normally attack humans unless provoked, Evans said. "The average canine is much more of a danger to people than mountain lions ever were."
He said the county usually gets two to four mountain lion calls a year, often involving a more violent animal.
Angel Raton of fish and game, which also sent officers to the scene, said, "It was a real good situation to be able to release one of these beautiful animals in its native habitat. . . . We're hoping it finds its mother."
When wild animals and humans meet, the animals are usually the losers, Raton said. "It's rewarding to be able to put them back where they belong."