Mountain lion killed in Santa Paula after days of sightings
By Kim Lamb Gregory
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Santa Paula police shot and killed a mountain lion that had wandered into a residential backyard Tuesday morning.
Santa Paula Police Chief Steve MacKinnon said the mountain lion advanced on two officers before California Department of Fish and Game personnel could arrive to tranquilize and capture it, so a police officer was forced to shoot it.
“We felt it was an imminent threat,” MacKinnon said. “Unfortunately, it was a cub, about 35 to 40 pounds.”
Santa Paula police officers are not equipped with or trained to use tranquilizer darts, MacKinnon explained, and the cub advanced on the officers so quickly, they felt there was no choice.
“I recognize they’re beautiful animals,” MacKinnon said. “At the same time, they’re dangerous and deadly. And we are focused on public safety.”
Fish and Game biologist Kevin Brennan said he could not comment on the incident because he wasn’t there but did share his own experience with mountain lion cubs.
“I can tell you I’ve handled cubs before that were in the 80-pound range,” Brennan said. “If you tried to touch one of them without it being chemically immobilized, you’re in the emergency room.”
Tuesday’s incident followed a series of reports of mountain lion sightings that began coming into the police station Friday from the neighborhood around the 300 block of Dana Drive, where the animal was shot, MacKinnon said.
“Essentially it was determined that there were four, possibly five,” MacKinnon said. “At least two adults, one adolescent and two cubs.”
On Sunday afternoon, police used a telephone emergency alert system to warn residents to take precautions.
Tuesday’s incident occurred in the backyard of John and Rebecca Goyette, who have eight children and one more due on Friday.
“We’re more alarmed for the kids,” said Rebecca, 40.
The Goyettes said they have been spotting mountain lions around their home for days.
“We don’t let the kids play outside, and we bought this home because of the yard,” Rebecca said, nodding out her front door to the expansive yard, dotted with colorful plastic toys.
“They seem to have taken up residence here,” Rebecca said of the mountain lions. “We walk to the cars with sticks.”
John, who teaches philosophy at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, spotted the mountain lion and called the police at 8:30 a.m.
Brennan said this incident is unusual for many reasons.
Mountain lion sightings in communities backed up against a forest are always possible, he said, but it’s unusual to see them show up this time of year, when prey is plentiful farther into the forest. They usually show up when it’s drier — in spring or summer. And even then, they don’t hang around long.
“Even when that happens, usually the human commotion and presence is enough to cause the animals to leave,” he said. “And it’s also unusual that it’s been going on for several days.”
Santa Paula police urge people to keep an eye on children and pets and call 911 if they see a mountain lion.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org