Jan. 24 (UPI) -- A passenger flight attempting to land at an Idaho airport ended up aborting its first approach due to an unusual hazard -- a mountain lion on the runway.
Friedman Memorial Airport officials confirmed the Delta flight from Salt Lake City was forced to wait Saturday evening when the cougar trotted across the runway in the path the plane would have taken.
Airport Manager Chris Pomeroy said the cougar had initially been spotted at the south end of the airport and officials initially thought they had the big cat contained, but it gave employees the slip and headed toward the runway.
"We thought we had it contained but it did spring loose and walk across the runway when the Delta flight was several miles out," Pomeroy told the Idaho Mountain Express.
Pomeroy said he used a vehicle to herd the animal into a fenced-in area surrounding the control tower. An Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officer responded to the scene and shot the mountain lion, which was believed to be under a year old.
"There was no way to get a hold of it and trap it in a timely manner," Fish and Game spokesman Kelton Hatch said. "If we had let it out of the gate, it would have run out onto Highway 75."
Mike McDonald, the department's regional wildlife manager, said the officer on scene was not trained to use a tranquilizer gun due to under-staffing issues, and the predator likely would not have been relocated by the department anyway due to its apparent comfort in human spaces.
Passengers on the delayed plane said they were shocked to hear the cause of the flight's issues.
"We were on an approach for landing and all of a sudden the pilot pulled up. After a couple of minutes, he came on the loudspeaker and said the tower called and we had to pull up because there's a cougar on the runway," passenger Diane Cordes said.
Fellow passenger Zoe McLane tweeted about the incident while still in the air.
"So I'm in an airplane right now and right as we're about to land the plane suddenly pulls upward. And the pilot announced that we can't land right away. Why, you may ask? BECAUSE THERE'S A [expletive] COUGAR LOOSE ON THE AIRPORT RUNWAY. I KID YOU NOT," she wrote.
McLane also tweeted a short video of the pilot making an announcement to update the passengers on the ongoing situation with the cougar.