Getting attention

Oakland Zoo veterinarians and technicians give the mountain lion found in Pescadero on June 1 plenty of attention. They say he will ultimately live out his life in a zoo. Photo courtesy Oakland Zoo

The mountain lion that found itself cornered in a Pescadero High School classroom on Wednesday is now under the care of veterinarians at the Oakland Zoo. He was delivered there late Wednesday afternoon after a long day at the South Coast school.

It all began around 8:20 a.m. on June 1, which was to have been the last full day of classes for the school year. Teacher Randy Vail said that a student and a teacher noticed the cat in front of the school as students and staff arrived for the day. The cat, later described as a 6- to 8-month-old male cub, apparently became disoriented and ran into the school, first crashing into a glass door, then once inside hitting the door again before veering into the classroom of English teacher Jose Perez. Once inside, a staff member shut the door to protect people in the building.

Students and staff were initially locked down in keeping with emergency protocols. Students left by bus at about 11:30 a.m. and were taken to Pescadero Elementary School to be reunited with family, according to La Honda-Pescadero Elementary School Superintendent Amy Wooliever.

The cat was tranquilized by U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials late in the afternoon and trucked to Oakland.

The unusual events pushed the planned Pescadero Middle School graduation ceremonies to today, which is also when the high school seniors are set to graduate. High school finals that were still to be taken will be rescheduled, Wooliever said.

Oakland Zoo veterinarians said on Twitter Thursday morning that the cat had a badly broken tooth that had to be extracted. The zoo indicated the cat was too young to be released into the wild and would ultimately be placed at an accredited zoo.

Wooliever said it's not unusual to hear of mountain lions around school district property, but that nothing like this had ever happened before.

"I've seen some, but for it to be at school is pretty crazy," said sophomore Jay Alsadir.

As the situation unfolded, Pescadero students held hastily made signs with sayings like, "I like cats" and "save the cougar" and displayed them through the windows toward media and others gathered in front of the school.

"We're just really thankful our kids are amazing and that they sheltered in place and as always were respectful," said Wooliever, adding that when she first heard about the situation she thought it might be a senior prank.

Emma Spaeth is a staff writer for the Half Moon Bay Review covering community, arts and sports. Emma grew up in Half Moon Bay before earning a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Oregon.

(4) comments


Of course I'm talking out of my hat, as I was not there, but...

why not just leave the door open and get behind the cat (outside, of course) and make enough noise so the cat could just go home?

Seems that may have been a lot simpler, effective and it would have put things right instead of all this human interaction.

I know, it's easy to second guess, but it seems like simple common sense to me. Now the cub will never see its mom again.

uffish thought

Hi George, that was my first thought too -- why not just let it go?

But a later June 3 Review article, which probably posted after you wrote that, clears up the question:

"Veterinarians at the Oakland Zoo say a mountain lion cub brought there after a trying day inside a classroom at Pescadero High School earlier this week is severely underweight and anemic and would likely die if returned to the wilderness."

I don't know if whoever decided to take the cub to the zoo instead of releasing it knew it was sick and too young to be on its own, but would guess that's the case. Good call.

Thanks for the updates, HMB Review.


Hi uffish; you're right on both counts.

I had not seen the follow-up piece. The experts, however, made the right call as it must have been obvious to them that the little guy was in physical duress.

I also appreciate the updates.

uffish thought

If anyone else was wondering how long young mountain lions normally stay with their mothers--

"The young may stay with their mother for as long as 26 months, but usually separate after about 15 months. In the wild, a mountain lion can live up to 10 years. In captivity, they can live up to 21 years." › Mammals

National Wildlife Federation

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