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Mountain lion tranquilized after chase in Orange County, Calif.

An employee of an Irvine business said the lion "made its way into the office walked straight past me and right into the lab."

One of the thousands of mountain lions that live in California wandered deep into the human city of Irvine on Tuesday, leading animal control there on a wild chase that ended in an office building, where the big cat finally succumbed to the effects of a tranquilizer dart.

NBC News Los Angeles reported that footage from passersby and security cameras showed the 2-year-old male of considerable size darting across a sunny street and running past a hair salon.

Eventually the lion ran toward the offices of Morse Micro. Mark Waterhouse, an employee visiting from the United Kingdom, said at first he wasn't sure what type of large animal was causing a commotion outside the building.

"The word mountain lion didn't even come into the vocabulary," Waterhouse told NBC Los Angeles.

That was — until the lion walked inside.

"There were sirens outside and it hit the door that was closed and made its way into the office, walked straight past me and right into the lab," Waterhouse told NBC News Wednesday.

"At the time, I didn't know it had been tranquilized. The officers had got one dart into it — perhaps it was a bit drowsy," he added.

Shortly after the animal was taken away sedated and in a stretcher.

No one, including the mountain lion, was injured. Because it is healthy, young and untagged the animal is a candidate for release back into the wild, officials said.

Mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, are widespread across the United States and their ranges vary from 30 to 125 square miles, according to the San Diego Zoo.

Before European colonization the animals were widespread from coast to coast, but after centuries of hunting their ranges are today restricted to remoter areas, particularly in the West.

"As more people have moved into the mountain lion’s territory, the number of encounters with these cats has increased,” the zoo wrote. "This is often 'big news' and frightens people. But overall, meeting a mountain lion is an unlikely event."

Mountain lions often make news when they killed for rare attacks on humans: one was killed after it attacked a Calabasas, Calif. child in August 2021; another was killed after attacking a Larimer County, Colo. resident and sheriff's deputy in March 2020; and three others were killed in Arizona after they fed on trailside human remains they did not kill.

In 2019 a Colorado man made national news for fighting and suffocating an attacking mountain lion with his bare hands.

Earlier this month, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte made headlines for shooting and killing a mountain lion that was wearing a National Park Service tracking collar.