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A police officer shot and killed a mountain lion in downtown Salt Lake City early Tuesday morning when the animal charged him, despite having been shot with a tranquilizer dart by a state wildlife officer.

Salt Lake City police Sgt. Brandon Shearer said the predator, believed a male 1-2 years old, was first spotted by a Gold Cross ambulance driver about 3 a.m. in the area of 600 East and South Temple.

Police officers located the animal and cornered it between South Temple and 100 South on 500 East.

Shearer said officers waited about an hour for Utah Division of Wildlife personnel to arrive. However, when the lion was shot twice with the tranquilizer dart around 5:45 a.m., but, police say, reacted by charging the nearest police officer.

"He got within about six feet of our officer, who shot and killed it," Shearer said, noting the officer feared not only for his own life but the safety of the public if the lion escaped.

The officer fired twice, striking the animal both times, police said. DWR personnel removed the animal's remains for disposal.

DWR Central Region Wildlife Manager Riley Peck acknowledged that while the lion did come close to the officer, he was unsure whether it was "charging," or just attempting to escape. He allowed that someone unfamiliar with wildlife behavior may not know the difference.

Tranquilizer dosages in such cases can vary, and the lion was young and healthy, getting up after being darted.

Why the animal was wandering through downtown Salt Lake City was a mystery, though Peck said that it is "pretty typical" that an older lion may have pushed the younger one out of its territory.

"They try to establish their own territories, and sometimes, unfortunately, that ends up being around people," he said.

Twitter: @remims