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VISITING MOUNTAIN LION OUSTED FROM GATED COMMUNITY.

Byline: Steve Carney Staff Writer

HIDDEN HILLS - A wandering mountain lion ducked, darted and eluded capture for five hours in this exclusive gated community Wednesday, before state game wardens tranquilized the cat and returned it to the wild.

Judy Perito was among the residents who spotted the lion about 8 a.m. near Long Valley and Clear Valley roads.

``This gorgeous thing was right outside. (It) was panting and just standing there,'' said Perito, who spied the cat from her hilltop home. ``Just magnificent.''

No one was injured, and the lion was never aggressive toward people or animals in the area, said sheriff's Deputy Ismael Lua. ``It appears he's lost and is just trying to get back into the hills.''

As news and law enforcement helicopters churned overhead, deputies and agents from the state Department of Fish & Game chased reported sightings throughout the morning.

``The main idea is to get the animal back into the wild, away from humans,'' said Fish & Game spokesman Patrick Moore.

After tranquilizing the cat, game wardens returned it to the area they believe it came from and waited for it to wake up, so it wouldn't be vulnerable to predators, he said.

Mountain lion sightings are not uncommon, Moore said, but attacks are rare. He said the last lion attack in the Los Angeles area, in 1995, injured a 27-year-old mountain biker in the Angeles National Forest near Altadena.

According to Moore, anyone confronted by a mountain lion should stand still and not run. ``If you run, you look like a deer. If you stand your ground, they don't know how to handle it.''

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo: (1 -- 2) Above, a sedated mountain lion is transported Wednesday by animal control officers for release in the wild. At right, the cougar lopes near Long Valley Road in Hidden Hills, an exclusive gated community, despite the first tranquilizer dart. Pursued by police and news helicopters, sheriff's deputies and game wardens, the big cat eluded capture for hours.

Lillian Darling Holt/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 16, 2000
Words:340
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