By: Sherri L. Shaulis, The Press-Tribune
Friday, November 24, 2006 1:07 PM PST
A family arriving at their home in the Grosvenor Downs neighborhood in Granite Bay earlier this month caught a glimpse of an unusual site: a mountain lion standing in the alcove near their front door.
The incident prompted leaders from the Eureka Union School District to issue a letter of warning to parents and officials from the California Department of Fish and Game to remind local residents that wild animals are just that - wild.
"The area is not a bad territory for mountain lions," said Troy Swauger, a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game. "More than half of the state is prime mountain lion territory. They have always been here."
Swauger said it's difficult to determine how common mountain lion sightings are throughout the state, let alone in the Roseville and Granite Bay areas, since not every sighting can be confirmed, nor is every sighting reported.
In fact, a second mountain lion sighting near the Maidu Interpretive Center in Roseville has yet to be confirmed. The sighting reportedly took place earlier this month, employees as the facility said.
Hannah Thompson, who works at the center, said no one was injured in the incident, but had no other details of the sighting.
Swauger said there are some broad reasons why a mountain lion might be spotted in a residential area, including a younger male being pushed out of a territory by an older male, or even one of the animals making a "wrong turn" and ending up in an area it has no desire to be in.
"They are predatory animals, designed to be stealthy," Swauger said. "They do not mean for you to see them, even though they might see you."
After the Granite Bay sighting, Greenhills Elementary School Principal Peter Towne sent home a letter to parents after the incident.
"A family with students in the Greenhills/Eureka/Olympus attendance area located in the Grosvenor Downs neighborhood (Seeno and Douglas Roads) arrived home (the evening of Nov. 11) to find a mountain lion in an alcove area by their front door. They were able to back away and contact law enforcement, but the animal was not captured," the letter said.
Also in the letter, Towne offered tips from the Department of Fish and Game on what to do in a similar situation:
* Do not approach the animal. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
* Stay calm and speak loudly and firmly.
* Do not run from a mountain lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Protect small children so they won't panic and run.
* Stand and face the animal. Make eye contact.
* Appear larger. Raise your arms. Stand as tall as you can. Open your jacket if you are wearing one.
* Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly. The idea is to convince the lion you are not easy prey and you may be a danger to it.
* Maintain eye contact and slowly back away toward a building, vehicle or busy area.
Swauger also suggested homeowners don't create an environment that might attract wildlife: Bring pets and pet food inside, keep trash cans covered.
"There's a reason they are called wildlife," he said. "They are wild, they are not pets."
To report all mountain lion sightings, call 911, the Placer County Sheriff's Department at (530) 886-5375 or the Department of Fish and Game at 445-0045.
- Sherri L. Shaulis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.