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Jason Green/Daily News

MOUNTAIN VIEW -- The young mountain lion captured here Tuesday was on the prowl for a mate of its own and a place to call home, wildlife officials said.

Instead of finding open space, the puma known as 46M by researchers at UC Santa Cruz wandered into the high-tech haven of Mountain View early Tuesday and even ended up with his own Twitter account before he was captured and returned to the wild.

After making his way in the dead of night from the Los Altos Hills into busy Mountain View, the lost puma hid under a bush for hours Tuesday on a street with lots of foot traffic before making a break for another hiding place.

Jason Green / Daily NewsJason Green / Daily NewsA 110-pound mountain lion was cornered in a parking garage on the 2000 block of California Street in
Jason Green / Daily News Jason Green / Daily News A 110-pound mountain lion was cornered in a parking garage on the 2000 block of California Street in Mountain View on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife tranquilzed the cat, which was already wearing a tracking collar.

"He spent a whole night walking through Los Altos and into Mountain View and found a bush from sunrise to 2 p.m. on a fairly busy street with people walking by," said Chris Wilmers, a wildlife ecologist for the Puma Project and a professor at UC Santa Cruz. "He must have just been petrified."

Wilmers on Wednesday revealed the young animal's movements, captured through a tracking collar researchers put on him in January. The puma was the 46th mountain lion to be given a tracking device by the Puma Project, and the M in his name stands for male.

In late April, 46M, believed to be between 18 and 24 months old, left an area he had shared with his brother and mother and began searching for his own open space, Wilmers said.


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"This is a thing young pumas typically do," Wilmers said. "He started walking around the Santa Cruz Mountains to look for a new territory to call his own."

On Sunday night, he arrived in the Los Altos Hills, said Wilmers, who noted the cat soon crossed Interstate 280 and "hunkered down" there for a day before his wanderings Monday overnight took him into Mountain View.

"He traveled close to 3 or 4 miles through highly developed area," Wilmers said.

The Santa Cruz Puma Project, a partnership between UC Santa Cruz and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, has placed 48 collars on mountain lions, including 46M's mother and brother, in and around the Santa Cruz Mountains, from Pacifica to Gilroy.

The lost puma was first spotted in Mountain View about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday by two people who saw him in an apartment complex at 255 S. Rengstorff Ave. Police evacuated Rengstorff Park and issued shelter-in-place orders for the still-occupied community center.

Rescue teams combed the park and nearby Stevens Creek Trail looking for the big cat.

At about 7 p.m., passersby saw him crossing California Street, Mountain View police Sgt. Saul Jaeger said. The animal then ran down an alley separating two apartment complexes and into a parking garage, where the gate was open. Police closed it once they confirmed the cat was inside.

"It's kind of by luck that it went into an area that's kind of a large cage," Jaeger said.

Several hours later, game wardens shot the mountain lion with a tranquilizer gun.

The escapade caught the attention of social media, and someone created a Twitter account @MtnViewPuma, posting such gems as "This is stressful. Anyone got any leftover carné asada from yesterday? I'm not picky." And "This game warden guy has a weird looking gun. Why do you think I'm under the car??"

During the hours-long standoff, a boisterous crowd of about 300 people gathered at the entrance to the driveway. Casa del Rey Apartments resident Missy Hart, 23, expressed disbelief that a mountain lion managed to wander so far into Mountain View.

"I was getting him on the camera, but the police told me to leave," she said.

Police were standing by with rifles in case the operation to tranquilize the animal failed. But Wilmers said pumas in this kind of situation rarely attack.

"There's lots of cases of mountain lions walking into downtown areas, and there's never been an attack on a human being in that context," Wilmers said. "They're in a bad situation and trying to get out. They're going to run away and try and hide."

Game wardens with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife eventually returned 46M, which they estimate weighs 80 pounds, to the open space where he was before making a wrong turn into Silicon Valley.