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Kansas Zoo Cougar Killed

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 26th, 2009


Entrance to the main part of Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo in Kansas.

Officials at a central Kansas zoo are trying to figure out how a 150-pound mountain lion escaped from its enclosure.

The 14-year-old female was shot and killed by police at the Great Bend Zoo on Sunday evening, May 24, 2009. (This follows an incident the previous day at the Memphis Zoo when a Bengal tiger bit a zookeeper.)

Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo director Mike Cargill tells local media that the mountain lion escaped during feeding time shortly before closing (at 7:00 PM). The staff quickly moved the few zoo-goers in the area to safety.

Cargill says visitors were never in danger but the situation was “deteriorating quickly.” The big cat was frightened and had a history of being somewhat aggressive.

Tranquilizer darts would have taken a half-hour to arrive so police were called in.

Great Bend police shot and killed the cougar as it crouched in the bushes next to the bobcat exhibit.

Information from: KAKE-TV, KSN-TV, and other local media.


An African lion at the Brit Spaugh Zoo.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


6 Responses to “Kansas Zoo Cougar Killed”

  1. raisinsofwrath responds:

    “Tranquilizer darts would have taken a half-hour to arrive so police were called in.”

    Of course, since it would be silly to keep a tranquilizer gun and darts AT the zoo.

  2. Rogutaan responds:

    Arg! Did they really have to kill it? I mean, yeah, okay tranqs would have taken awhile to get there, but still. By “crouching” do they mean it was kind of just sitting there? Or was it crouching as in ready to pounce on something?

    Zoos should probably start having a supply of tranqs on the grounds, just in case something like this happens.

  3. kittenz responds:

    The zoo almost certainly does have tranquilizer darts on the premises; most zoos do. But, given a puma’s prodigious speed, strength, and ability to leap, and the possible harm that a big cat with a history of aggression could do, maybe they felt they just had no choice. Especially in the wake of the tiger incident at the San Francisco zoo.

    If they thought that there was a real possibility that the cat could escape zoo grounds, or if it was near any people, they may just have felt the risk was too great. I hate to think of the puma being killed. But this was a 150 pound, aggressive cat. Ever try to make a 10 pound cat do something it doesn’t want to do? Ever try to catch one that is free and really wanting to get away? I’m sure it was a tough decision, but when people’s lives are at stake and split seconds count, sometimes zoo personnel have to kill escaped animals to protect the public.

    It’s easy to say “they should have tranked it” if you don’t have a clear idea of how anesthetics work (or don’t work) in cats. I love cats. All cats. Pumas are among my favorites. But tranking a cat is not as straightforward as some of the wild animal shows make it look, and a partially anesthetized cat is a very dangerous animal.

    All zoos have to have protocol in place to deal with animal escapes. Unfortunately, deadly force sometimes has to be used.

  4. PeterOtoole responds:

    I’ve lived in Kansas for 20 years and never guessed Great Bend had a zoo. Ridiculous. If anything is going to go wrong, be it escaped cats, terrible planning, or itchy-fingered town cops, it’s at the #@!# Great Bend Zoo! I wish I had something to compare this to for non-Kansans…Imagine if one day you heard about a ‘Mayberry Nuclear Missile Storage Facility’ with Gomer Pile as lead technician and Barney guarding the gate…A bit surprising for a town the size of Mayberry? A bit out of place? And doesn’t it seem like something just may eventually go wrong with terrible, though hilarious, consequences?

    Whatever on Earth inspired these podunk towns to build zoos in the first place (Manhattan KS as well) just needs to be reexamined. If they don’t have the money to give these animals a quality, safe life, then be gone, podunk zoos!

    Enough backwater ‘psycho ward’ zoos with miserable animals pacing back and forth, waiting to snap…

    I’m not being biased towards small towns, I’m from the country myself, just direct.

  5. raisinsofwrath responds:

    kittenz, you said:

    “The zoo almost certainly does have tranquilizer darts on the premises”.

    Why would you say that when they clearly said the tranq’s were a minimum 30 minutes away?

    Also, a good zoo should be prepared to handle and tranq any animal. If they aren’t trained for such an emergency then something is amiss IMO. Sometimes there is no other choice but to kill an animal. However, there are instances where people overreact and needlessly put an animal down. Although I find fault in the unavailability of a tranquilizer I certainly wasn’t there and have no idea as to the severity of the situation. Therefore I can’t disparage them for shooting the animal.

  6. kittenz responds:

    ‘Tranquilizer darts would have taken a half-hour to arrive so police were called in.’

    Traqiulizer darts from where? From a locked storage facility on the zoo grounds? From a locked building ?(remember, it was closing time). From animal clinic or hospital on the premises? From a local veterinarian who workd for the zoo? No one has said. What they did say is that it would have taken a half hour to retrieve them, and circumstances meant that waiting was not an option.

    We don’t know what the situation was at the zoo. If there were violations of animal safety and care they should be fully investigated, and dealt with accordingly.

    You are right about slipshod, fly-by-night “zoos” though. Many of them should not be in business.



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