Tiger roving Simi Valley, Calif., area killed

LOS ANGELES Authorities shot and killed a male tiger yesterday that had been roaming the hills near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The 425-pound cat was shot several hundred yards from soccer and baseball fields at the edge of a housing development, said Lorna Bernard, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Game.

"It's unfortunate that we had to kill it," Bernard said. "It's even more unfortunate that the person who owned it didn't come forward and alert us immediately. We might have been able to capture it."

Trackers had to shoot to kill because a tranquilizer would have taken five to 10 minutes to bring down the animal, Bernard said. They were concerned the animal might attack them or bolt onto a nearby highway. The animal was killed near Simi Valley, 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Authorities received a call just after 6 a.m. from a man who reported the tiger strolling past his back fence.

Ken Tucker told KCBS-TV the tiger walked to a nearby house and "was just staring down" the neighbor's dogs.

The trackers had been looking for the animal for eight days, using infrared equipment at night and setting traps.

The hunt began after paw prints  far too large for native bobcats or mountain lions  were found on a ranch near the library.

Bernard said the owner could have told authorities about the tiger's temperament and eating habits, which might have helped them catch the animal sooner.

Authorities said they were investigating how the cat got loose. Tests will be performed on the tiger that may provide clues about its history.

Two weeks ago, nearly two dozen large cats, including lions and tigers, were removed from property rented by Abby and Emma Hedengran near the library, Bernard said. All the animals found on the property were accounted for, she said.

A telephone message left yesterday for the Hedengrans was not immediately returned.