Just before dawn in downtown Reno, guests of Harrah's Hotel Casino say a mountain lion was trying its best to get inside through a revolving door.
Police started getting calls about a mountain lion sighting at 5:16 a.m. That prompted an urgent response from the Reno Police Department, setting up a perimeter, warning the public and shutting down the main thoroughfare through the city's center. The Nevada Department of Wildlife responded as well.
Police dispatchers promptly called KOLO-TV and asked us to warn the public that a mountain lion was loose in downtown Reno.
Virginia street between 2nd and the "Biggest Little City" Reno Arch was closed. Police say they scared the cat under a stage in the Harrah's Plaza in front of the casino. Several officers gathered with flashlights and guns drawn to get a sight of the large cat under the stage for nearly an hour.
Meanwhile, downtown tourists were told to stay inside and peered out the windows as the emergency workers surrounded the wild animal.
The lion was tranquilized and loaded into a Department of Wildlife vehicle.
The streets are back open now.
The lion is okay and no one was hurt.
Now the cat is at the Nevada Department of Wildlife Offices. Chris Healy of NDOW took a look at it this morning. He said it is a young 75-pound male and that it probably came to downtown Reno along the river corridor. The Reno Arch and Harrah's are a few blocks north of that wild mountain Truckee river corridor.
The fear is that the lion was there to eat people. "Oh God no," Healy says. It is a common pattern for young male mountain lions to wander into urban areas in Reno. He says that the males are often pushed out of their clans and search for a new area away from other older male mountain lions.
The lion will be fitted with a tracking collar and released into an "appropriate area," as part of a University of Nevada Reno Mountain Lion Study. The collar will allow researchers to monitor the cat’s movements and habits.
So far this year, urban areas in Reno have seen a rash of wild animal conflicts with people. A coyote has jumped a household fence and eaten dogs, a badger wandered into a water store and chewed on water lines, and now this mountain lion was stalking near the Reno Arch and the Harrah's Plaza Stage, a popular spot where tourists like to relax, drink beer and listen to music.