By Emily Alpert
Gilroy - A day after Sheriff's deputies shot and killed a mountain lion strutting near homes in unincorporated Gilroy - likely the same lion that thinned goat herds on nearby New Avenue - more east Gilroy residents found pets and livestock mauled or ominously missing.
Scott Essary, a resident of Foothill Avenue, woke up Saturday, to find one of his family's three pet goats dead in a backyard pen. Essary called Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies and secured a depredation permit from the state Department of Fish and Game, which allows homeowners to kill or trap mountain lions that have preyed on livestock or pets.
"We're keeping our ears out," said Essary, who set up a live trap for lions in his yard. In the six years he's lived on Foothill Avenue, this is the first time Essary has had a run-in with mountain lions. "All our animals are fully enclosed at night, now. I never thought we'd have any issues where we are. Now, I'm not even comfortable with my kids in the back yard."
Essary's goat wasn't the only casualty Saturday morning: A neighbor's sheep was also missing, he said.
Friday, Sheriff's deputies shot a mountain lion prowling near homes on Lassie Court and Sugar Babe Drive, east of Gilroy. Deputies believe the lion was the same animal that killed at least six goats on nearby New Avenue. A depredation permit had been issued for the cat that week. The permits are rare: Only one was issued in Santa Clara County in 2006, according to DFG. Since 2000, only five lions have been killed under depredation permits in the county, not including the lion shot last Friday.
Growing lion populations and expanding South County growth has pushed the cats into conflict with residents, explained Fish and Game warden Kyle Kroll in a Friday interview. This year's drought has added to the problem, attracting lions to reservoirs and ponds on lower-lying land. Friday, Kroll pointed out a pool of water near Lassie Court as a magnet for the animals.
The animals usually shy from people: Fewer than 3 percent of sightings end in attacks, according to DFG. If confronted by a lion, wardens recommend that people puff up, make a lot of noise and avoid running.
"I just wanted to let people know," said Essary. "I didn't want people to think that everything was resolved, after one lion was shot."
Emily Alpert covers public safety issues for The Dispatch. She can be reached at 847-7158, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.