Daily Archives: July 14, 2009

Mountain lion sightings, summer/fall 2009, in Northern California: UPDATED with VIDEO

Section I:  recent Palo Alto/Arastradero/Toyon Trail reports.

Section II: Comments/advice on human-lion encounters

Section III: Chronological listing of N. Cal mountain lion sightings

mountain-lionMountain Lion

Below is a bobcat, NOT a mountain lion.



A bobcat is the size of a small dog and has a short tail; a mountain lion is the size of a small person, and has a long tail.

Section I: Recent sightings in Palo Alto neighborhoods and hiking trails

Palo Alto, Sept. 28:

A mountain lion was spotted in a Palo Alto backyard Sunday night — not up in the foothills, but in a creekbed not far from Highway 101.

A resident of the 1700 block of Edgewood Drive called police around 8 p.m. Sunday to report the sighting, which police believe was authentic.

“The guy was home entertaining several guests,” Palo Alto police Sgt. Dan Ryan said. “They were out back when they saw this mountain lion slowly walking along the back fence line, which backs up to the creek. Several people there stood and watched it for about a minute. The mountain lion paused and watched them, then went over the fence, either back into the creek bed or into a neighbor’s yard.”

Authorities notified neighbors, but no one else saw the lion, Ryan said.

Though more common in the foothills, mountain lions have been known to roam the city’s creek beds at night, he noted.

“It’s a little less usual, but we have had sightings in the past,” Ryan said. “They do get this far, and this late in the year there’s less water in the creeks, so it’s easy for them to cruise along the habitat there.”

This is along Oak Creek; so this lion may have come down from Alpine Road, through the Stanford Golf Course, Sand Hill Road, Palo Alto Ave, through residential Palo Alto near Woodland Avenue. All persons living along creeks in Palo Alto should be careful about their pets and children. Remember, fences are not barriers to mountain lions.

Possible mountain lion route along Oak Creek, Palo Alto

Possible mountain lion route along Oak Creek, Palo Alto

ALERT: Sept 3: two sightings have been reported in residential Palo Alto.

Palo Alto lion sighting and creeks

Palo Alto lion sighting and creeks

A full-grown mountain lion was sighted Thursday evening on a rooftop in south Palo Alto, in the 800 block of Rorke Way, police reported today (Friday).
…a 45-year-old man heard footsteps on the roof of a neighbor’s house and saw the large cat, which jumped off the roof into the back yard.
…. There were no tracks evident in the hard ground, unlike an earlier sighting of a lion on a rooftop by a teenage girl when the lion jumped into a damp flowerbed and left deep tracks, he said…..
Rorke Way is three houses away from Barron Creek, which Ryan called “a mountain-lion highway. They use it as a natural trail.”

ALERT: a Sept. 19 mountain lion sighting in the middle of the day has been reported on the Toyon Trail in Portola Valley.

ALERT: an Aug. 29 mountain lion sighting has been reported in the Arastradero Preserve, in Santa Clara County near Palo Alto and Woodside.

Section II: Comments on human-lion encounters

Advisory: Solitary pets, even large ones, are certainly at risk in these areas. That lion did not go up on a roof to sun himself….he/she was looking to jump on something, and that “something” would not be a vegetable, if you catch my drift. While lions do not often attack adult persons, it is possible that humans, especially solitary children, are at risk. Fences are NOT significant barriers for mountain lions.
DO NOT THINK THAT FIREARMS ARE A SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM!!Hikers must exercise caution, especially in where the trails are narrow, rocky or wooded, and early and late in the day. DO NOT LET YOUR PETS OR CHILDREN OUT OF ARMS REACH OR OFF LEASH. Lion attacks on persons are extremely rare. When they have occurred, they are always on unaware, solitary persons, probably “by mistake,” and are made by the lion jumping onto the back and biting the neck, without warning, from hiding places, from the rear and/or above, usually from a rock or outcropping above a trail.

like this, but 150 times bigger

like this, but 150 times bigger

This is worth repeating: the victims have NO warning, not even enough to turn around. It’s like, you’re thinking about how pretty the flowers are, and… Boom!!.. a huge impact, like an unseen linebacker who jumped off a garage roof, knocking you onto your face, and sinks his long teeth into the back of your neck. N-O– W-A-R-N-I-N-G. ….no time to pee your pants or draw a weapon. It’s not like some African lion who comes running at you and jumps on your chest like in the movies.
colbert-bears-threatdown_2And mountain lions are NOT LIKE BEARS, either….with mountain lions, there’s no drama, no encounter, no time to react. You don’t just run into a mountain lion on a trail and then he attacks you; mountain lions don’t invade your campsite trying to get in your cooler; mama lions don’t let their cubs get in your way; the lion doesn’t growl at you like a bear and stand up and clack its teeth. Mountain lions don’t have bad tempers, they aren’t twice as big as you, and they don’t think they are the freakin’ kings of the woods; so they don’t go around looking for people to beat up, partly beause humans look kind of like bears, and lions are generally afraid of bears
unlike an encounter with a bear, if you see a mountain lion, you can be pretty sure you’re not his intended target.
Sure, it’s good to stand tall and make noise, reinforce the impression that you’re a human, not a deer. But he’s probably already figured that out, and, if he ever did have any idea of eating you, he’s lost his advantage, his modus operandi for large prey, his “knock you on your face” tactic; his hard-wired hunting instincts have already already whispered “move on”… that lion’s not coming for you.

Of the few attacks on people, it is safe to say that never will a mountain lion attack either two persons together or a person with a dog (small children may be a different matter). Anecdotally, a solitary adult was attacked by a lion a couple of years ago in Northern California, and a little old lady was close enough to hear the noise and respond, and drive the lion off with a stick.

BECAUSE OF THE WELL-KNOWN NATURE OF LIONS AND THEIR HABITS, IT IS SIMPLY NOT POSSIBLE (NOR IS IT REASONABLE TO TRY) TO EITHER PREVENT (OR INTERVENE IN) A MOUNTAIN LION ATTACK BY USE OF A FIREARM. LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS KNOW THIS, AND WILL NOT ACCEPT COCK AND BULL STORIES TO THE CONTRARY. Carry a hiking stick… it’ll be a lot more useful, in many ways. If you see a person carrying a firearm, call 911; he or she is much more dangerous than mountain lions. Mountain lions don’t kill people in Northern California; people with guns kill people in Northern California.
[I would also add, for people who live in areas where mountain lions have been sighted, there is NO residential fence that will keep out a mountain lion…jumping is what they do, and they are astonishingly good at it.]

To learn more, see the California Fish and Game’s FAQ.

list of mountain lion attacks on persons in California: none since 2007
To see a video of a mountain lion (near Moorpark, in So. Cal.), go here or here.


Portola Valley, San Mateo County, July 14

Workers twice reported spotting what they believed was a 3 to 4-foot mountain lion with a long tail near 218 Family Farm Road in the Portola Valley area, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

The first sighting was reported at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, according to the sheriff’s office. A second sighting occurred at around the same time on Saturday, during which the mountain lion was reportedly stalking a jackrabbit.

Officials issued a warning Monday that the suspected mountain lion may be traveling around Sausal Creek and to use caution when in the area.
[see Aug 29 below: this animal may have been sighted again]
Anyone who encounters a mountain lion should not run from the animal, and should not crouch or bend down, but rather try to appear larger, and make noise.

UPDATE: July 16: two sightings in Arcata, Humboldt County:

The Arcata Police Department on Wednesday said it received two separate reports of mountain lion sightings within the city limits, but officers were unable to locate the animals.

The first sighting came early in the morning in the area of Anderson Lane in Sunny Brae. Later in the afternoon, officers were notified that a mountain lion had been sighted in the area between Greenbriar Lane and Hilltop Court, off of California Avenue.

July 22:

The Oakland Police Department is warning residents about a possible mountain lion roaming the Oakland hills after three deer carcasses were found this afternoon, police spokesman Jeff Thomason said.

Officers responded at 12:32 p.m. to reports of a mauled deer carcass in the 11300 block of Greenbrier Street, Thomason said.

Arriving officers found the deer and discovered two more mauled carcasses during a search of the area, Thomason said.

July 24:

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA – For the second time in a week, authorities in West Sacramento Friday confirmed a mountain lion sighting along a rural city trail.

The big cat was spotted as it strolled by a citizen south of redwood Avenue near Tamarack on the Clarksburg Trail, Yolo County Sheriff’s Anial Services personnel said.

The sighting was later confirmed by Yolo Animal Services staff, who spotted the mountain lion’s tracks in soft dirt around the area.

The spot was close to the area where residents spotted a mountain lion last Saturday. A resident as well as a Yolo County Animal Control Officer saw the animal along the Clarksburg Trial just east of Jefferson Blvd.

7/28, Rancho Murieta:

My husband, three children and I were out for a ride on the golf cart last night and happend upon a mountain lion. Just thought I would let the neighbors know. It was about 7:45 last night (Monday) and we were on the dirt path behind the 11 tee on the South course. We were headed back home and to our surprise saw the cat just up ahead of us. He was a much darker color than I figured mountain lions were supposed to be and wasn’t huge – about the size of a lab but skinnier. So as not to provoke him we turned off the cart and sat there until we were sure he would leave. He stopped to look at us for a bit, then turned and walked on down the path. We headed back home in the opposite direction at that point.

July 31, Hayward:

NOT a mountain lion

NOT a mountain lion

HAYWARD — Prowling an overgrown creek bed between two mobile home parks, Hayward’s most wanted feline caused quite a commotion Wednesday afternoon.

More than a half-dozen officers combed the area off Industrial Parkway near Interstate 880, with chopper backup providing eyes in the sky. An automatic telephone message went out to 600 residents, advising them to stay indoors — a mountain lion might be nearby.

A California Department of Fish and Game official arrived at the scene and, after scrutinizing a somewhat fuzzy photo, came to the conclusion that it was a case of mistaken identity: That’s no mountain lion, that’s just a cat, he said.

A very large domestic cat, granted; a Maine Coon to be specific.

Aug 4: Grass Valley/Penn Valley/Nevada County:

In regards to the mountain lion problems in the Penn Valley area: Everyone in Nevada County should be on high alert.

The behavior the animal is displaying is called “habituation.” Habituation is a behavior that has been well-documented by animal behavior scientists. It means simply the animal has lost its fear of people and does not act like a wild animal any longer.

Usually, in the areas where there have been attacks by mountain lions, there have been several documented cases of lions acting very boldly and threatening around people.

August 8, Alameda County:

Lynn Reed, a ranch owner, avid hunter and wildlife expert, said he and his wife watched what appeared to be a black mountain lion for more than 10 minutes in the foothills near Dublin in Alameda County. The next day, another one was seen by an engineer in the nearby San Ramon hills.

Reed’s 10-minute sighting is the longest, eye-witness account of a black mountain lion reported by a wildlife expert in 20 years. It is similar to a Fish and Game warden’s description from the 1980s near Sunol Regional Wilderness.

The pelt of a black mountain lion has never been recovered by officials, according to the Department of Fish and Game, and they say a black panther does not exist in California. One theory is that a genetic mutant is out there. Another is that the owner of exotic wildlife, such as a black jaguar, let an animal loose.

“He was black as can be with a head the size of a cantaloupe,” Reed said. “We watched it for 10 minutes. I said to my wife, ‘Look how its tail goes back and curls up, look how its shoulders move.’ It was 3 feet long, the tail 2 1/2 feet, maybe 60, 75 pounds.”

A similar animal was seen last week in the nearby San Ramon hills by a surveyor, Art Whitten. “I was setting up an aerial panel and I felt something watching me,” Whitten said. “I turned and he was sitting in a ravine, 100 feet away. Of course, at first I was nervous, but he showed no interest in me. I’ve seen a lot of mountain lions, and I’d estimate it as the average size of a mountain lion.”

[Note: see comments; this animal has been seen again.]

August 12:

WOODSIDE, Calif. — A mountain lion sighting was reported Wednesday night in Woodside, according to the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services.

The animal was spotted on Roan Place near Patrol Road at about 8:05 p.m., emergency officials said.



August 13, Lake County:

LAKEPORT Last week a mountain lion was spotted in a Lakeport resident’s backyard. According to resident, who lives on 20th Street and wished to remain anonymous, the lion was spotted walking through her backyard at about 9:30 p.m. She said the lion weighed about 120 pounds. “At first I thought it was a big dog, but a closer look revealed it to be an adult mountain lion. I yelled at it and it ran into the bushes. Later my neighbor said he heard a loud catlike scream from the same area,” she said.

She said she called the Lakeport police dispatch but they told her they didn’t respond to wild animal calls and informed her to call the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) dispatch in Sacramento. The DFG dispatch in Sacramento told her they only respond to mountain lion calls when there is a danger to humans, pets or livestock.

This the third sighting of a mountain lion in the county within the past two weeks. Last week a lion was sighted in Lucerne and two weeks ago a fisherman took a photo of a mountain lion walking along the lakeshore at Wheeler Point.

Mountain lions are common in Lake County and wildlife biologists say that this year because of the severe drought in the nearby forests the deer, which are the primary prey of the lions, are moving into the urban areas looking for food and water. The lions follow the deer. Another reason lions are showing up around homes is because they will prey on house cats which are readily available.

East Bay’s black big cat may be a bobcat:

The East Bay bobcat?

The East Bay bobcat?

Recent stories about sightings of a “big, black feline” on a hillside near Pleasanton led to speculation about a loose black panther or a mistaken identification from a distance of a large dark cat or a dog.

…Fremont resident…. picnicking at Ohlone College in Fremont around 7 p.m. Aug. 14.

The four photos show a large, very dark-colored bobcat. In two of the photos, the big cat actually looks black.
“it looked to be about the size of an average dog — border collie size perhaps.”Considering the distance,” … “I’d say it was a lot larger than our cats — maybe three feet long and fairly thin.”

about Aug.20, Tomales, Marin County:

Two mountain lions were spotted at 100 yards along with a few deer carcasses at a ranch…

Aug. 25, Lake County:

KELSEYVILLE A large male mountain lion killed an adult buck deer in the backyard of a Clear Lake Riviera residence on Tuesday morning. The killing took place within a few feet of a landscaping crew that was working in the area.

After killing the deer, the lion fed on the carcass for more than two hours.

According to Jose Juarez, who operates a landscaping business, he and his two sons, Jackson and Jose Jr., were clearing brush from a backyard on Terrace Way when they observed two buck deer watching them. After a few minutes, one of the deer took off running and disappeared over a hill, while the other deer stayed in the backyard. That’s when the mountain lion leaped from the brush onto the deer’s back. Jose Jr. said the lion grabbed the deer by the throat and killed it in less than two minutes. The lion then started to feed on the carcass, which was only a few yards away from the men.

Aug. 29: from the comments:

Saw a mountain lion kill and carry a rabbit into nearby bushes just inside the John Marthens Lane gate to the Arastradero Preserve Saturday (8/29) evening right after sunset. The cat was the color of the surrounding dry oats, with a long, black tipped tail. Maybe the same cat as sighted in Portola Valley and Woodside?

Aug. 30: Recapping Lake County incidents:

This story started last month when a mountain lion jumped over a 6-foot fence and killed a goat at a home near Lakeport…
The lion then tried to jump back over the fence with its meal, but the goat was so heavy that the lion nicked the top of an electric fence, got zapped and ran off without its plunder.

Then, also last month….Andrea Chabak and her brother were in their boat on Clear Lake, fishing at Wheeler Point near Konocti Harbor… A mountain lion suddenly emerged along the nearby shore, approached within 15 feet of the boat, and then took a drink of water from the lake. Luckily, Chabak had a camera to capture the close-range event.

In mid-August, a lion sauntered right through a woman’s backyard at dusk in downtown Lakeport, and in another encounter, a lion walked through the parking lot at a Burger King.

But this past Tuesday…Jose Juarez and his two sons, who run a landscaping business, were clearing brush from a home when they noticed two deer watching them. At one point, one of the deer, a forked-horn buck, took off running, and the other approached within 10 feet of Juarez. Right then….a mountain lion powered out of the brush and attacked and killed the deer, with Juarez still only 10 feet away.

Juarez said the lion never even looked at him or his sons, didn’t even snarl. So the three went back to work with the lion alongside, gnawing on the deer. After two hours, the lion took off with a hind quarter.

According to the accounts, the Lakeport lion is a male that weighs roughly 130 to 140 pounds. Calls reporting mountain lions near homes in Lake County have been occurring about once a week, reported the Department of Fish and Game.


A possible mountain lion sighting was reported Sunday morning in a creek area near a mobile home park in Half Moon Bay, according to the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services.

The mountain lion sighting was reported around 8:30 a.m. south of the Canada Cove Mobile Home Park on El Paseo, emergency officials said.

Sept. 6:

CLEAR LAKE RIVIERA – It’s been a busy summer for mountain lion sightings, and another one reported this past week in the Clear Lake Riviera has residents there concerned.

Last Thursday night, a mountain lion was spotted taking a cat off off a porch on Edgewater Drive.

Resident Sid Donnell said shortly before 10 p.m. he heard a loud noise and went out of his door, where he saw the lion with the cat in his jaws going down the stairs of his porch.

Sept. 18, Carmel:

Jerry Wilkinson, a San Benancio Canyon resident, reports he has seen evidence of a mountain lion along a private road leading to several houses.

Wilkinson found a deer carcass along the road Wednesday morning, and pointed out the marks where it had been dragged down a hillside. He hypothesized the mountain lion had lain in wait for the deer on a bluff above the hillside.
Wilkinson, an experienced hunter, said young mountain lions are getting forced out of the high country because the population is growing, plus the lions find themselves sometimes in competition with feral pigs for food.

“That’s why they’re coming down here and into Carmel Valley and killing cats and dogs,” he said.

Sept. 19:

A mountain lion was spotted near a home in unincorporated San Mateo County near Montara Friday night, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

The animal was spotted at about 9:20 p.m. as it was jumping from a tree near a home in the 700 block of Alta Vista Road, according to the sheriff’s office.

Sat. Sept 19:

An adult mountain lion and a young mountain lion were spotted this afternoon in Portola Valley, according to the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services.

The sighting occurred at 1:30 p.m. on the Toyon Trail, about a quarter-mile west of the Ranch House.

Marysville, Sept. 22:

Two mountain lion attacks on livestock in recent days killed a spate of animals in the foothills east of Marysville, with one mountain lion still on the loose.

Separate residents in Oregon House reported mountain lions killed their animals last Friday and again Tuesday, according to the state Department of Fish and Game.

In the first report, a resident said a mountain lion killed a pet goat, said department spokesman Kyle Orr.

A Fish and Game warden and state trappers tracked a 95-pound female mountain lion to about 100 yards from where the goat was killed, trapped the lion in a tree and killed it, Orr said.

That was followed by another report Tuesday of a mountain lion that killed five sheep at a residence on Frenchtown Road. The mountain lion did so sometime over the previous four days, Orr said.

Two of the sheep were partially buried, he said, indicating the mountain lion planned to eat the kills later.

A trapping crew also pursued that mountain lion and found hair, but could not pick up a scent, he said.

Officials don’t believe the same mountain lion made both kills because the first lion was found so close to where the goat was killed, Orr said.

“Mountain lions are known to take livestock,” Orr said, though he said there’s no noticeable trend so far this year suggesting mountain lions are doing so more than normal. “Generally speaking, mountain lion sightings this time of year tend to increase because people are out more.”

Two years ago, students in Challenge spotted a mountain lion as they rode horses to Yuba Feather School, prompting a school lockdown, though the lion ran from the students.

Because the animals generally avoid people, mountain lion attacks on people are quite rare in California, with only 14 recorded since 1890, Orr said. Six of those attacks were fatal.

whiteamerican wrote:
How many animals are in a spate? LOL
And what are the poor lions supposed to do? People have built houses in every conceivable place and driven them from their own habitat. I think it is criminal to kill them. If you can trap them , then you can just relocate them.

figwit wrote:
If you think the solution is to just kill all the wildlife, then you are incredibly naive and should move back to whatever city you came from. I agree that if an animal is showing signs of being a danger to people, or even livestock, to a certain extent, that it is reasonable to remove it, but I would much rather see it relocated than killed, when possible. But the truth is, mountain lions ARE generally weary of humans, they do not just go around hunting us, give me a break. if you live in these foothills, you are living with the wildlife. I grew up here, and I plan to stay here, and if you moved here from the city, I don’t blame you, welcome! But the mountain lions were here before you, and you are living with them, along with the rattlesnakes. Be respectful and responsible with this land and everything on it. Keep it beautiful out here, and that includes sharing some of our space. Or, to put it bluntly: deal with it!!! You live in the country and no one is forcing you to stay here!

thinker wrote:
Thank you San Fransisco voters and the rest of you who think all wildlife has a place. Mountain lions are killers and they will take your pet, or you child, or you, they just don’t care, that’s what they do.

horsecrazylady wrote:
fencng is not possible- we have seveal hundred acres. also, i forgot to mention that the place where the horse was killed was just a few hundred feet from the school bus stop where the kids wait every morning and afternoon. were are not talking some desolate spot up in the hills.this is right down in the populatd flatland’s. the article mentioned “state trapper’s” i wonder if my husband would allow them to set up traps? does anyone know where to call?

Please don’t get me wrong- I sympathize for the loss of your horse and other animals, as do I empathize with the fear that you have for your family.
There has to be a way to be safe without resorting to killing these animals.

Even if someone doesn’t value the existance of these animals (not saying you), they need to know that these are apex predators. Without them, the ecosystem gets even more out of whack.

Smartsville, Yuba County, Sept. 23

A mountain lion met its demise Wednesday morning near a highway in Yuba County’s eastern foothills — the third report of lion activity in the county since Friday.

The 90-pound female was injured after a vehicle apparently struck it on Highway 20 in Smartsville around 7:15 a.m., according to two witnesses. One of them, Yuba County game warden Sean Pirtle, said he killed the lion with a single gunshot late Wednesday morning after determining it could not survive its injuries.

So many mountain lion sightings so early in the fall — and in a relatively low-altitude area like the Yuba foothills — points to more lions in the county than normal, according to Pirtle.

Willits, Sept 25:

A woman in the 500 block of Redwood Avenue on the west side of Willits, told Willits police she saw a mountain lion kill a deer near her home early Thursday morning.

The bambicide took place at 3 a.m. on the hillside behind her house, according to the woman, who was not identified.

Santa Rosa, Oct. 22:

Residents in Santa Rosa Valley are turning the tables on a mountain lion they say has killed several pets in the area.

Carmella Torres says her beloved dog “Petey” became the animal’s latest victim. On October 4, the healthy 8-year-old Jack Russell Terrier was playing in his owner’s backyard when he was attacked.

Fish and Game officials believe a mountain lion was responsible for Petey’s attack as well as five others in the area since July.

An English Bulldog and a goat have also been killed.

Residents have now hired a tracker to hunt down and kill the animal. They’ve obtained a permit through the California Fish and Game Department, allowing them to do so.

Once an animal is killed, a permit is issued for ten days allowing a homeowner or a hired tracker to use a pistol, shotgun or rifle to take the mountain lion out on their property.

Four permits have been issued so far, but there has been no sign of the big cat.

Nov. 3, East Redding:

Gail Paulsen is going to wear a bear bell when she walks her dog near her home in east Redding.

But not in fear of bears. Rather, she is hopeful the noise will scare away a mountain lion her neighbor saw over the weekend along a trail in the Churn Creek Open Space near the McConnell Foundation’s Lema Ranch.

“And I’m going to get some pepper spray,” said Paulsen, 59, of Redding.

Dino Mraz, 60, Paulsen’s neighbor, was walking Lacey, her 6-month-old goldendoodle, Sunday when she spotted the big cat lurking in the brush a couple hundred feet from the trail.

November 5, Grass Valley
: a lion was reported in a pasture and on a private road. See comments.


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