SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) — A mountain lion that was found in a tree at a Spearfish home was tranquilized and later released a few miles away in a rural area, a wildlife official says.

South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Game Warden Mike Apland tells the Rapid City Journal that a Spearfish couple enjoying an early morning cup of coffee on their deck Wednesday noticed the cougar in the tree and called authorities.

Apland said a dog likely had chased the young male mountain lion up the pine tree.

“It was just hanging out, thinking it was concealed there,” Apland said.

Apland has been a game warden for 23 years and responds to three or four mountain lion sightings annually. Apland said he usually has only two options: “remove the lion or put it down.”

“Our primary concern is always public safety,” he said. “There weren't really any other residences in the immediate area and the lion wasn't showing any aggressive behavior.”

After surveying the scene, Apland said he contacted a state biologist and requested he come to Spearfish with a tranquilizer gun.

“The lion was darted, and we waited six to seven minutes for the drug to take effect, and it did,” Apland said. “Then we removed the lion from the tree. He was sleeping soundly by then.”

Apland and the biologist loaded the slumbering lion into the back of the warden's truck and took him several miles away to a wooded area.

“Everything went extremely well,” Apland said. “Once we do relocate, we stay on scene and make sure they are up and awake before we leave. Smaller cats come out of the drugs fairly quickly. About a half hour after relocation, this cat didn't want to be around us anymore.”

The 6-month-old male weighed about 42 pounds. At that age, Apland said, juvenile mountain lions are just starting to venture out on their own, and he did not want to move the animal too far from its territory.

“Hopefully, this ingrains in him the attitude that they don't want to be near humans or any residential area,” he said.


Information from: Rapid City Journal, www.rapidcityjournal.com