Officials at a central Kansas zoo are trying to figure out how a 150-pound mountain lion escaped from its enclosure.


Officials at a central Kansas zoo are trying to figure out how a 150-pound mountain lion escaped from its enclosure.

The 14-year-old female was shot and killed by police at the Great Bend Zoo after getting out of her enclosure about 7:30 p.m. Sunday during feeding time. Visitors were still at the zoo, which was scheduled to close at 8 p.m.

“It’s always difficult when you have to put an animal down,” zoo director Mike Cargill, who was at work when the incident occurred, said Monday.

Cargill said visitors were never in danger.

“She was never out of our sight,” Cargill said. Staff quickly moved the few zoo-goers in the area to safety.

The big cat, which was the zoo’s lone mountain lion, was cornered along a fence about 40 feet from the entrance to her own exhibit. She traced the fence to the edge of the zoo’s timber wolf exhibit, became frightened, and ran back toward the grizzly bears. Eventually she crouched in some bushes next to the bobcat exhibit.

Cargill said the cat was never more than 150 feet from her own enclosure.

A resident of the zoo for the last six years, the mountain lion had a tendency to be aggressive, according to Cargill.

Cargill said the zoo would normally prefer to capture an escaped animal with tranquilizer darts. But it would have taken at least a half-hour for the darts to arrive, so police were called as the mountain lion moved among various exhibits.

“Things weren’t moving along fast enough,” Cargill said. He noted the cat was frightened, which made it more dangerous. The situation was “deteriorating quickly,” he said.

Great Bend police shot and killed the mountain lion as it crouched near the bobcat exhibit, less than 20 minutes after the escape. Cargill said the cat died instantly.

“We’ve had lots and lots of phone calls,” Cargill said. “Of course, everybody is disappointed ... But I think most people understand there is a time and place that demands that.”

Once the investigation of the escape is complete, the zoo will look into the possibility of acquiring another mountain lion, Cargill said.