On Friday July 21, the Tracy Press ran an article reporting several reported possible sightings of a cougar in the north part of Tracy.
According to the article representatives of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife checked out the scene and were unable to substantiate them. Does that mean there are no cougars in the Tracy area? I think not. It simply means that DFW hasn’t seen any lions yet. I have personally seen cougars less than 10 miles from the Tracy city limits. It seems entirely reasonable to me to suspect that a cougar might wander over to the north side of town in search of prey.
Whether we like it or not, most of California was once cougar habitat and for a long time we humans did everything we could to eradicate them. Cougars are predators and they kill animals to eat. They kill deer, elk, cattle and sheep. I’ve even seen a cougar kill a squirrel. Until the 1960s the State of California paid a cash bounty for hunters to shoot cougars. If you ate a livestock raiser a cougar can wreak havoc with your livelihood. I believe it was in the early 1970s that the people of California passed a statewide ballot imitative which banned hunting of cougars. Since that time the cougar population has skyrocketed. Unfortunately so have the number of cougar attacks on livestock, pets and even humans.
In September of 2014 a family was hiking on a popular trail near Cupertino when their 6 year old boy was attacked by a mountain lion. Fortunately there were a couple of adults along who were able to beat the cougar and get him to drop the boy and retreat. The child was taken to a nearby trauma center and was able to survive the ordeal. A few days later a two year old adult cougar was killed within a few hundred yards of the attack site. DNA tests by the California department of Fish & Wildlife confirmed that it was the cat that had attacked the boy.
A rancher in the Merced area had lost his prized colt to a cougar attack a few months later, and a woman living in Placerville had her 45-pound dog attacked by a cougar in February of 2015. Closer to home, a mother cougar with cubs was spotted near Escalon in 1994 and a lion was killed by authorities after being spotted hiding in their garage by two children returning home from school. Cougars have been spotted under a house in Los Angeles County and even in the city limits of San Francisco.
Closer to home, in 1994 a mother Cougar with cubs was spotted several times along the Stanislaus River in the city of Ripon and its tracks were confirmed by Fish & Game personnel Wildlife experts tell us that over half of California is cougar country. Those beautiful river parkways in Tracy, Mountain House and Ripon are ideal corridors for a cougar to travel in. Any way you look at it, if you spend any time at all outdoors in California; you’re probably in Cougar Country.
Technically, if you are raise livestock, and you’ve lost animals to lion depredation, you can apply for a special depredation permit from the state and then legally shoot a cougar to protect your animals. Most ranchers however have very little stomach for government paperwork. Many of them deal with the lion problem themselves. They refer to it a “Shoot, Shovel, & Shut Up”. Are there cougar prowling the outskirts of Tracy? I wouldn’t bet against it. Meanwhile keep a close eye on your kids. Heck that’s pretty good advice any time.
Until Next Week,