December 22, 2009 9:46 AM
By PETER SCHELDEN
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Bobcats are being seen around San Juan lately, and they sometimes get mistaken for larger, more dangerous mountain lions.
Bobcats have been seen several times recently in San Juan Capistrano, with two incidents popping up in police reports.
On Nov. 16, a student heading to Ambuehl Elementary School reported seeing a bobcat hiding in bushes.
On Dec. 7, someone reported what they thought was a mountain lion, but it turned out to be another bobcat.
That's a common mistake, said Harry Morse, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game.
"We have had a rash of sightings where people think bobcats are mountain lions," he said. "We've also had dogs identified as mountain lions. We had one identify a cow as a mountain lion."
There is a big difference between bobcats and mountain lions, though. Bobcats are rarely bigger than 30 pounds, Morse said. He said even a young mountain lion can easily weigh more than that.
Mountain lions can be dangerous, though they rarely attack people, he said.
"The actual number of attacks is low," Morse said. "If you're an insurance agency, you'd love to write that policy because you'd make a ton of money."
Bobcats are fairly safe, Morse added. The Department of Fish and Game has received only a couple of verified bobcat attacks, and those were from animals that were cornered, he said.
"They're shy, reclusive," he said. "They don't feed on people's pets."
Mountain lions are another story.
"A lot of pets are eaten by mountain lions," Morse said. The big cats have taken down at least one pit bull and a 60-pound golden retriever, he said.
"One of my friends had a llama killed by a mountain lion," he said. "They also take down elk, which weigh up to 500 pounds."
Morse says there isn't a lot you can do if you see a bobcat or a mountain lion in your neighborhood. If someone is bitten, the department will respond. But there are just 200 wardens across the state, and they don't respond unless there is a public-safety threat, Morse said.
To learn more about the animals, visit dfg.ca.gov. On the left-hand side of the page, click the green button that reads "What to do about nuisance, dangerous or injured wildlife."
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org