Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto Draws the Lions

Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto is known for its organic waffles, crepes and delightful coffee. But overnight Tuesday, it made headlines after becoming  home to a hungry predator you don't want to meet.

A mountain lion was spotted in the food lover's neighborhood around 2 a.m. near Shattuck Avenue and Cedar Street. Berkeley Police Sergeant Mary Kusmiss said the mountain lion was also seen in a shuttered Elephant Pharmacy, across the street from popular cafes and a block away from an Andronicos. This is also fairly close to the Cal Campus not to mention Alice Waters' Chez Panisse restaurant.

If the cat was hunting for food, she quickly changed course when she realized she was the one being hunted.

Police responded to the calls in force.

Cops first caught up with the female lion running eastbound on Cedar street.  Then it ran southbound on Spruce Street before jumping a fence into the playground area of All Souls Episcopal Church.  It jumped another fence and ended up in the backyard of a home on Spruce Street. People in that house got a wake-up call from cops they won't soon forget that went something like, "Excuse me, but there is a wild animal pinned behind your house."

The cat somehow escaped that yard and was next seen running on Oxford Street toward Walnut.  It tried to hide in the back yard of another home there.  Those homeowners allowed the cops to use their back porch to get a better look at the animal.

Berkeley officers took two shots at the animal, that failed to bring her down.  Police said the Mountain Lion came towards the officers and continued into the driveway of the house after being shot, so with a patrol shotgun took a third and final shot. 

The first call came to 911 2:13 a.m. and the animal was dead at 3:26 a.m.

A representative from the Department of Fish and Game told Berkeleyside said that the animal posed "a clear danger and the police took the necessary action."  Department of Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foley said that his department "absolutely" supports the police  officers' decision to kill the mountain lion.  "We've never seen a scenario with a lion in a place like that  before in Berkeley,"  Foley told Bay City News, who has been with the department since 1997.  "To be that far into an urban area, it clearly presented a public safety  threat."

The department defended their actions this way:

Despite the sensitive nature of this event, we feel confident about the actions taken by the BPD Officers considering the totality of the events, when considering the densely populated area in which the animal was in, the homeless that sleep in the area, the overnight employees who clean businesses and the like, the adjacent schools and the northern Shattuck corridor. BPD believed that this Mountain Lion posed a significant public safety threat. BPD officers who have to dispatch animals find it challenging, but it is part of our duty to protect the community.

A woman who lives across the street from where the cat was shot told Bay City News when she heard the shots and police officers yelling she called police.  She said she had never heard of such a thing in her 30 years in the neighborhood.  "I feel sad the animal had to be put down," Ursula Schulz said. "I  understand why, but it's tragic."

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