Sunday, July 15, 2007

Calif. mountain lion gets too close for comfort

Friday, July 13, 2007

By Wayne B. Carlson

Another mountain lion came too close for comfort Monday afternoon in Amador County and this time there was a casualty.

River Pines resident Eileen Ray was looking around her deck when she spotted a mountain lion below her deck near a pond. "It had its ears up and its eyes were wide," she said. "It wasn't afraid of me, even a little bit. I was stunned."

Retreating into her house, Ray grabbed her camera and was able to snap off a picture of the cougar lumbering away from the house with a cat in its mouth. Ray said the feral cat that had fallen prey to the lion was one of several that live near her.

She said it wasn't the first time she's seen the wild cats in her yard, recalling another sighting about six years ago, but she found it unnerving on Tuesday morning when she looked out back and saw a pair of mountain lions lounging near her pond.

When she called Amador County Animal Control, Ray said she was "handed off to someone at the Fish and Game, who told me the lions are a protected species and there was nothing they could do." She said the man she talked to told her to stop putting food out for the neighborhood cats and to do what she could not to attract the large felines.

According to the California Department of Fish and Game, the mountain lion is classified as a specially protected mammal. Only individual animals causing damage to property, livestock or human health and safety can be killed. However, any mountain lion that is found in the act of inflicting injury to, molesting or killing livestock or domestic animals can be taken immediately, providing the killing is reported to the department within 72 hours.

The Department of Fish and Game may remove or kill any mountain lion or authorize an appropriate local agency with public safety responsibility to remove or kill any mountain lion that is determined to be an imminent threat to public safety or health.

Ray said her neighbors were putting up posters with the picture she had taken to inform residents of the incident.

In March, Argonaut Heights residents in Jackson reported multiple sightings of mountain lions roaming around their newly built subdivision, including one spotted napping beneath a homeowner's deck one morning.

After calling Jackson police, the department issued a public safety announcement listing several do's and don'ts to remember if encountering a mountain lion. The advisory specifically warned against attracting mountain lions by feeding wildlife. Other tips were to keep children and pets close, not approaching or running from mountain lions, and trying to appear larger to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.

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