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Chilean capital gets another visit from cougar amid coronavirus lockdown

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean authorities captured a second cougar in little more than a week late Wednesday after the cat was spotted strolling through an upscale suburb of Santiago amid the evening quiet imposed by a nationwide, nightime curfew due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Video taken by a resident shows the cougar, a 22-kilogram (48.5 pound) female bounding down a tree-lined lane in a condominium development in Chicureo, just north of the capital.

The eerie quiet of a city without people may be attracting the normally reclusive cats, said Marcelo Giagnoni, regional director of Chile´s Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG).

Much of Santiago, which sits within sight of the wild, glaciar-capped peaks of the Andes Mountains, has been shuttered for nearly two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Streets in the normally bustling city of 6 million are devoid of people and traffic.

“At least in Chile, this is a phenomena unique in our history,” Giagnoni said of the prolonged quarantine measures. “There´s no people, there´s no noise, so they dare to explore a little more.”

Giagnoni said severe drought in the dusty foothills around Santiago had likely already brought the cats, desperate for food, to the city´s door step. The now barren streets were enough to entice the nearby cats to enter the city, he said.

Another cougar, or mountain lion, was captured by authorities in late March after it trotted among apartment blocks near the city center. The cat was released to its natural habitat outside Santiago. [nL1N2BH0S7]

Wildlife officials say the cougar was captured on Wednesday and has been delivered to the city zoo, where it is being examined prior to its eventual release.

Reporting by Reuters TV, writing by Dave Sherwood; editing by Diane Craft

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