Mountain Lion Escape At Great Bend Zoo Blamed On Staff Error

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Zoo officials in Great Bend say a Mountain Lion's escape from her enclosure Sunday night was the result of a staff error.

The escape happened during feeding time. Zoo Director Mike Cargill said an investigation showed the 150-pound female cat's double-gated entry was left unsecured by a member of the park's staff.

Cargill said disciplinary action will be taken, but did not elaborate, calling the matter a personnel issue.

The Mountain Lion, which Cargill said had a history of being aggressive and unpredictable, was shot and killed by Great Bend police approximately 20 minutes after her escape. Cargill says the cat was never more than 150 feet from her enclosure, and that guests in the park were not in immediate danger.

Asked why the cat was not tranquilized, Cargill said sedatives are kept on zoo property. However, because the sedatives are classified as narcotics, laws limit that only a licensed individual -- such as a veterinarian -- administer them.

Cargill said the zoo is too small to have a full-time veterinarian on staff, but contracts with a veterinarian in the community. Authorities quickly contacted the veterinarian Sunday night, but Cargill said he was not immediately available.

Cargill said given the amount of time it would have taken the veterinarian to arrive, coupled with a 10-minute prep time for the tranquilizers, and approximately 20 minutes for the drugs to take effect, he felt he had little choice but to destroy the Mountain Lion.

"We've had lots and lots of phone calls," Cargill told KAKE News on Monday. "Of course, everybody is disappointed... but I think most people understand there is a time and place that demands that."

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