Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Calif. issues permit to kill cougar for attacking pets

By KEVIN HOWE
Herald Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 07/10/2007 01:28:26 AM PDT

A mountain lion has been stalking pets and other prey in a mid-Carmel Valley neighborhood and the state Department of Fish and Game has issued a permit to catch and kill it.

A number of pets have disappeared in the neighborhood on Via Serena, and one woman reportedly arrived home late at night and saw a mountain lion devouring a cat in her driveway, according to the DFG.

"I saw it twice," said resident Nina D'Aquanno, once by the mailbox to her neighbor's house and "close enough for me to be screaming and running into the house."

Both sightings occurred about 5 a.m., she said, and her neighbor saw the lion in her driveway shortly after 11 p.m.

Neighbors have reported cats missing and finding body parts in their yards, D'Aquanno said. In one case, the father of a child who was playing in the backyard when a mountain lion showed up drove the big cat away by throwing golf balls at it.

"We've been leaving the lights on because we have cats in the backyard," D'Aquanno said, "and leaving a radio on."

Jeannetta Williams, a home caregiver who works in the neighborhood, said residents report repeated visits by the mountain lion on Via Sereno, a short, cul-de-sac off Schulte Road with about 16 houses on it.

The neighborhood is located between All Saints' Episcopal Day School and Carmel River School, and one sighting of the cat was made at Schulte and Carmel Valley roads near a church, she said.

Letters warning of the mountain lion's presence have been sent around, Williams said, and neighborhood meetings have been held.

The Department of Fish and Game got its first call about the lion June 28, with a report of pets missing, said DFG wildlife biologist Terry Palmisano. The same woman called the next day to report she had seen a mountain lion in her driveway with a pet cat in its mouth, and that the lion was apparently stalking her pot-bellied pigs, Palmisano said.

A depredation permit allowing the lion to be captured or killed was issued June 30, Palmisano said, and it is still in effect.

"You can't use firearms safely in that area," she said, "so as far as I know, they're trying to trap it."

From descriptions by residents and the lion's behavior, Palmisano said that it appears to be "one of our typical young, juvenile males."

If the lion is trapped, she said, it would be euthanized — standard procedure for mountain lions who have become too accustomed to prowling human residential neighborhoods — rather than released elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Palmisano said, people who live in or near mountain lion country — "and we all do" — need to take precautions.

In the case of owners of small domestic "hobby" animals like pigs, sheep or goats, she said, a way should be found to secure them by installing barns or roofed kennels where the animals can be kept at night and otherwise take actions "in order not to have to put the mountain lions in situations where we have to issue depredation permits for them."

Stray cats and feral cat colonies that develop in neighborhoods are a problem, she said, because they attract bigger predators "to come down for lunch, especially in a dry year like this."

Other wildlife moves closer to water sources, often in residential neighborhoods, and the big cats follow, Palmisano said.

"We want to discourage wildlife from becoming used to being around people."

Kevin Howe can be reached at 646-4416 or khowe@montereyherald.com.

http://www.montereyherald.com/ci_6338512

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