Photos: Mountain Lion Wanders Into CA High School Classroom

Students and faculty at a California high school had a close encounter with a mountain lion Wednesday morning after the big cat wandered into the building.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department reported around 9:30 a.m. local time Wednesday that the mountain lion entered the grounds of the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District. Fortunately, students and staff of Pescadero High School were reported safe, the Sheriff’s Department noted, and authorities had been called to safely and humanely remove the animal from the school. A teacher spotted the creature early Wednesday morning before authorities corralled it in a classroom.

“The SMCSO can confirm at this time that ALL STUDENTS AND STAFF ARE SAFE at Pescadero High School,” the Sherriff’s office tweeted. “There is currently a mountain lion that entered the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District grounds. [US Fish and Wildlife Service] has been notified for safe and humane removal.”

Local news reporters shared pictures of the cat, curled up under a teacher’s desk inside a classroom:

BREAKING: San Mateo Sheriffs Office says a Mountain Lion is inside a classroom at Pescadero High School.

— Stephanie Magallon NBC Bay Area (@MagallonNews) June 1, 2022

We’re not sure of the context, but this appears to be a mountain lion inside a Pescadero High classroom this morning. Sheriff says everyone is safe. We’re working on more details. Photo courtesy School staff

— Half Moon Bay Review (@hmbreview) June 1, 2022

Here’s a better picture of the #mountainlion inside an English classroom at #Pescadero HS.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responding. @nbcbayarea

— Stephanie Magallon NBC Bay Area (@MagallonNews) June 1, 2022

NBC Bay Area later tweeted helicopter footage of the scene, showing authorities standing outside the school while enacting a plan to get the mountain lion out. Authorities barricaded a pathway from the school onto the grounds with lunch tables, and multiple individuals were standing outside an entrance to the school. The sheriff’s office said there was no immediate threat, NBC added in the tweet. SFGate reported that Fish and Wildlife workers were on the scene by 10 a.m. local time.

According to the Half Moon Bay Review, a local newspaper in San Mateo County, Pescadero High School English teacher Randy Vail sent an email around 10:40 a.m. local time explaining the situation. Vail told the paper that the mountain lion was first spotted in front of the school early Wednesday morning by a teacher and a student. The cat reportedly ran into the glass doors of the main entrance, and somehow got inside. Once inside, it ran into the glass door again, but could not get out. Instead, another staff member told the outlet, the cat walked into an English classroom, where a teacher closed the door, trapping the cat in the room.

A Sheriff’s Department spokesman told the Half Moon Bay Review that dispatchers received a call around 8:20 a.m., shortly before school started.

Javier Acosta, a detective for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, told SFGate that janitorial staff at the school discovered the cat. The mountain lion is likely a juvenile. “It probably got lost,” Acosta added.

Another mountain lion was spotted elsewhere in San Mateo County earlier this month, according to local news reports. NBC Bay Area reported on May 6 that the cat was caught on a homeowner’s surveillance camera around 10:30 p.m. in Ladera, about 30 miles away from Pescadero.

Mountain lions, properly called cougars, but also known as pumas or panthers, are the second-largest species of New World big cats, right behind jaguars. They are also the most widely-distributed of any wildland animal in the Americas, found all across South America, through Mexico and up into the mountain west and west coast of the U.S., all the way north into the Yukon Territory of northwestern Canada. They are mostly nocturnal and reclusive. They do not consider humans as prey and stay away from people. Attacks on people are very rare.

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