Sunday, May 24, 2009

Big house cat turns out to be mountain lion - Calif.

Mountain lion in tree confuses San Bernardino neighborhood
7:21 PM - May 22, 2009

Residents of a San Bernardino neighborhood lined up to snap pictures of what appeared to be a well-fed house cat Thursday, only to find it was actually a 100-pound mountain lion.

"It was an issue of scale," said Kevin Brennan, a wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game. "It was sitting in a big tree."

The incident began about 8:30 p.m. near 40th Street and Electric Avenue when residents spotted the animal staring down at them.

While some began shooting photos, a man cutting wood in his backyard with a chain saw sensed something was amiss.

"Some folks thought it was a big cat, but he saw that it was a mountain lion," Brennan said.

Game wardens came out and tranquilized the animal and immediately moved it into San Bernardino National Forest.

"What is really interesting is how far into San Bernardino it was," Brennan said. "You see mountain lions in any foothill community, but to see them that far into a city is amazing."

The case also was interesting because people often mistake cats for mountain lions, not mountain lions for cats.

Brennan said 81% of mountain lion reports turn out to be other animals, usually bobcats, domestic cats or the odd golden retriever. Police in Redlands once mistook a cat for a cougar and shot it dead, he said. Other departments have done the same.

"I once had two people call and insist there was a mountain lion in the backyard," Brennan said. "It turned out to be two ground squirrels on a rock."

—David Kelly


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