Two mountain lions shot and killed by game wardens in Half Moon Bay earlier this month were younger than initially thought and probably hungry, according to a statement from the California Department of Fish and Game.
The two mountain lions, who were killed on Dec. 1 after efforts to chase them away from inhabited areas had failed, were four months old and female, the department said. They weighed only 13 and 14 pounds, and their stomachs were empty.
Initial reports had suggested the cats were closer to 10 months old and put their weights at around 25 to 30 pounds.
"With the necropsy reports, I now realize these animals were smaller than assumed," said department director Charlton H. Bonham. "I regret this unfortunate incident in Half Moon Bay for all involved."
"The Department intends to learn from this experience," Bonham added.
The cats were spotted first in a neighborhood that is adjacent to a wildlife corridor leading to the Burleigh-Murray Ranch State Park.
In an effort to allow the cats a chance to go back into the wild on their own, game wardens advised the sheriff's office to keep people and pets out of the area for about 24 hours.
However, the cats returned to the area the next day and took refuge under the porch of a home on the 800 block of Correas Street.
They did not move despite efforts to scare them away, and officials described them as having "blank stares." Game wardens were only able to see the cats faces and heads, making it hard to estimate their actual size.
The department is currently evaluating its procedures for handling interactions with mountain lions and bears, Bonham said.
"In a perfect world we would have had further non-lethal options available," Bonham said.
Bonham said the cats would probably not have survived in the wild, and if they were captured they would probably have been turned over to a facility for permanent housing.