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MOUNTAIN LION: Big Cat Shot By Des Moines Police

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Authorities say a mountain lion was shot and killed in Des Moines.

It happened around 9:30 Thursday morning at 3910 Columbia Street, just North of Euclid.

It was a normal day for Jim Egan, working at his friends green house, until something caught his eye.

“For whatever reason I looked down at some plants on the bench and there were two eyes staring up at me,” says Jim Egan of Des Moines.

Egan said he slowly back away and called 911.

“He just laid under the bench because I could see him tracking my movement with his head movement and then cops were everywhere,” says Egan.

Police say the mountain lion started to run leaving officers no choice but to shoot the animal.

DNR arrived and transported the cat to the Wallace building, where people gathered to get a look at an animal rarely seen.

“It's very, very unusual to find one in a residential neighborhood,” says DNR Conservation Officer Jeff Swearngin.

Swearngin says the male mountain lion was 6 foot 3 inches long, weighed close to 100 pounds and was about a year and half old.

He says it's mostly young males that stray into public areas.

“The wild ones that we have found move here from out west, they've gotten kicked out of the family unit, they're young males looking to find a territory so they just travel and travel until they find a territory,” says Swearnigin.

Although the animal had to be put down, it will be used for research, biologists will study its stomach contents and try and determine where it's been.

As for Egan, although he was sad to see the animal put down, he's glad no one got hurt.

“It could have been a bad thing, and for the safety of any kids around it was probably best,” says Egan.

DNR officials say while in some cases they would use a tranquilizer, police made the right call in shooting the animal.

On top of being spotted earlier in the day near Madison Elementary School it was also four blocks from Harding Middle School and the risk of it escaping was too great.

DNR officials say this is the 8th official sighting of a mountain lion in Iowa in the last 10 years.

A mountain lion sighting was reported in Norwoodville in July but there is no confirmation this is the same cat.