Santiago, Chile Becomes Hot Spot For Cougars

TOPSHOT - Picture released by Aton Chile shows an approximately one-year-old puma in the streets of Santiago, which according to the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) came down from the nearby mountains in search for food as less people are seen in the streets due to the coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic. (Photo by ANDRES PINA/ATON CHILE/AFP via Getty Images)
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By Reuters TV

SANTIAGO, Chile, Thurs. Sept 23, 2020 (Reuters) – A cougar cub was captured in a posh Santiago neighborhood near the foothills of the Andes mountains, National Zoo officials said, the latest in a rash of recent wild cat sightings in the Chilean capital.

The cougar, a native species, had been spotted wandering around the suburb of Las Condes along with its mother and another cat, which are still at large, officials said.

Though there is no official count, the latest sightings mark a trend as cougars descend from the desolate flanks of the high Andes down into the metropolis of 6 million residents.

As months of coronavirus lockdowns have stilled the urban commotion, cougars feel emboldened to forage for food in the suburbs after years of drought, scientists have speculated.

Zoo officials said the city, too, has sprawled towards the mountains, encroaching on the cat’s habitat.

“We are going to have to get used to the presence of cougars,” said Alejandra Montalba, director of the National Zoo in Santiago. “They are here to stay.”

Zoo officials worked with police officers to capture the cougar early on Wednesday, and said they would resume the hunt for the remaining cougars at night.

The animals are typically released to the wild after officials give them a clean bill of health.

(Reporting by Reuters TV: Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Richard Chang)