by Heather Muller , 6/11/2007
A Bayside woman hearing a commotion on her porch Wednesday looked out the window to see the tail of her cat dangling from the mouth of a mountain lion.
"I heard a loud noise and went to the side door, and I saw what I thought was a tan dog trying to get something in his mouth," said Kathleen Essa, a resident of Brookwood Drive, which is located off Jacoby Creek Road.
"Then the animal turned around, and I saw it was kind of long, with a long tail, and I saw a long black tail hanging out of its mouth," she said.
"I knew instantly that was our cat."
Essa said losing Prince, an approximately 12-year-old male cat she’d rescued when he was a kitten, was like losing a member of the family.
"He had been hit by a car, and he only had three legs. I shouldn’t have favorites — I have two other cats — but he was kind of my favorite."
But it’s not just the loss of the cat that troubles her.
"What was so terrible about it is that the mountain lion came right up against our door to get the cat," she said. "We’re really concerned about it. We don’t go outside anymore."
Essa said she has a 6-year-old child, and her husband was working elsewhere in the yard at the time of the attack.
Wildlife biologist Jeff Dayton from the California Department of Fish and Game said sharing the land with mountain lions "is part of the luxury of living in places like Bayside."
"The area has a pretty healthy deer population, and anywhere we have deer, we have mountain lions not far away," Dayton said.
"I would say it’s pretty rare that we have mountain lions that are house-cat hunters, but they are opportunistic predators," he said, naming raccoons, foxes, skunks and possums as other mammals of choice.
The cat attack at the Essa residence occurred around dusk, which Dayton said is prime hunting time for the big cats.
The best thing residents can do is try to minimize risks and liabilities, he said.
"Residents should have a kind of common-sense awareness that I do live in mountain lion country. My family lives in mountain lion country. My pets and livestock live in mountain lion country."
Domestic animals should be secured at night, Dayton said, and he recommended not leaving pet food outside because it attracts other animals of interest to mountain lions.
He also noted that male mountain lions in particular have a very large home range — anywhere from 25 to 100 square miles.
"So a lion seen in Bayside one day may be in Freshwater the next."
Essa said a depredation order had been issued to have the mountain lion killed, but a tracker was unable to locate the cat.