Thursday, February 15, 2007 7:47 AM PST
The recent rash of mountain lion sightings in St. Helena has raised concerns about the animals, but Allan Buckmann, an animal biologist with the Department of Fish & Game, said residents have little to worry about.
Mountain lions generally only enter human territory in search of the small rodents that feed on pet food.
“If they see a house cat or a small dog, they’ll take them,” said Buckmann. “But humans shouldn’t be too concerned about their own safety.”
It is crucial that people who encounter a mountain lion not run, he said. They should stand their ground and try to appear as large as possible, such as by holding up their arms and spreading their coats. They should make human noises to make it clear that they are not animals. Whistles are a good way to remind mountain lions what they’re up against, Buckmann said.
It’s not necessary to call the police department or the Department of Fish & Game unless the lion actually tries to attack, Buckmann said. If a lion does act aggressively, people should call the police department, which will then notify Fish & Game.
The frequent sightings are probably of the same few animals, he said. There are likely few mountain lions in the area because they command significant territory: five or six square miles for females and 10 to 15 miles for males.
The 18 cases of mountain lions attacking humans that have been reported since 1890 have probably been cases of mistaken identity, Buckmann said. If mountain lions know they are confronting a human, they’ll usually retreat.
“Quite often they’ll come in stalking very close, even to people, until they realize they’re people,” said Buckmann.