After a brief escape from her enclosure this morning, the Ralph Mitchell Zoo’s cougar was captured on zoo grounds and returned without incident or injury. It is believed the cougar squeezed through a small opening created in her enclosure fence when a portion of sandstone broke free from the natural bluff in her exhibit.
The cougar was reported missing by the on-duty zookeeper around 9:30 a.m. Law enforcement was immediately notified, zoo visitors were evacuated and the zoo was locked and park entrances barricaded during the search for the animal. Meanwhile, the city, with the help of local media, issued a warning for citizens to be on the lookout and avoid the park and zoo area.
Zoo staff was assisted in the search by the Independence Police Department and zoo veterinarian Dr. Kevin Cooper, as well as an experienced drone operator, and the cougar was located around 12:30 p.m. less than 300 feet from her enclosure. Dr. Cooper tranquilized the cougar and conducted an examination and determined she was uninjured. The animal has been secured in her upper exhibit indoor holding facility until further assessment and repair of her enclosure can be completed.
“We appreciate the help of local media and the public in spreading the word while we conducted our search,” said Barb Beurskens, park and zoo director. “We are thankful she was located and returned quickly and safely.”