Zookeepers in San Francisco believe they have cracked the case of the massacred marsupials. A red kangaroo and two wallaroos—a kangaroo cousin smaller than a kangaroo but bigger than a wallaby—were found dead in an outdoor exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo on June 12, and the zoo suspects a young mountain lion captured in the city last week is the culprit. The 50-pound animal had been seen wandering downtown streets in the days before its capture. Zoo officials believe it killed the marsupials after making its way into the Australian Outback enclosure, which is adjacent to the perimeter fence, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Biologist Zara McDonald tells the New York Times that it's probably no coincidence that the marsupials were killed while the mountain lion was in the city. She says "surplus killings" sometimes occur when mountain lions encounter captive animals. "These hunting instincts are overloaded by the sudden abundance of easily captured and vulnerable prey without an escape route," and they kill more they can eat, she says. McDonald says the mountain lion was around 15 months old—too young to be away from its mother—and it's not clear why it was alone. Animal Care and Control spokeswoman Deb Campbell tells the AP that when the disoriented animal was captured, it was clear that it needed help. The mountain lion was released into a wilderness preserve after it was examined at the Oakland Zoo. (Read more San Francisco stories.)