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Shutdown Chilean capital gets visit from a cougar

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SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A young cougar surprised residents of a central neighbourhood of the Chilean capital Santiago early on Tuesday as it padded through streets that were almost deserted amid a widespread shutdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The wild cat, thought to have come down from the Manquehue mountain that overlooks the city, was described by witnesses as appearing to be disoriented and scared.

It traversed several private gardens and entered a school, followed by watchful police, before it was tranquilized and recovered by Chilean wildlife officials.

Santiago Zoo said on its Twitter account that the cougar was a young male weighing at least 30 kilograms (66 pounds) and would be taken to the zoo for a veterinary check up.

A spokesman for Chile’s agricultural and livestock service said the animal had likely come down from the mountains in search of food and water, which has become more scarce amid a decades-long drought.

The streets of Santiago were uncharacteristically empty in the early hours of the morning due to a nighttime curfew and shutdown of schools imposed by the government as part of measures to contain the advance of the coronavirus outbreak.

Chile now has 922 confirmed cases of coronavirus and two deaths.

The Chilean capital is at the foot of the Andes mountain range, a natural habitat for cougars, and sightings of the animals are not uncommon within the city limits.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Bernadette Baum